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Ethington’s time travel

In “Rethinking History,” Ethington’s claim that “time travel is impossible because there is no time in which to travel” (471) inspired in me a rethinking of all of the youth restoration and bodily preservation attempts we have developed in the beauty industry and bio-cosmetic industry.  It also brought to mind the historic preservation and restoration in which most cities have engaged, often in areas that have deteriorated due to neglect stemming directly from racist and classist institutional policies.  As Ethington points out in the paragraph above, the definition of time supported by many natural scientists and philosophers of science, specifically Hans Reichenbach, in this case, is that of “the interval between one entropic state and another” (471).  This definition of time and the spatialized model Ethington sets forth lead me naturally to the idea that it is not impossible then that scientists and engineers might devise a method for reversing the “thermodynamical processes” (471) implicit in the deterioration of buildings or streets or other physical objects by which a space of the past is made a place.  And in doing so, is this not time travel by the definitions set forth above?  Ethington, however, seems not to use these definitions of time to question the possibility of an “asymmetric” but still bi-directional navigation of time, as he goes on to say that traveling back in time would involve “forcing all of the particles in our bodies and the world around us into the negative performance of all the motions that they had just completed,” but that this would be impossible because the “entire planet” and all of its individual molecules are inextricably situated in a vast “network of energy and matter.”  He reasons, however, that even this would not actually constitute time travel, as “no one would remember the difference” (472).  I found this to be a limited exploration of his spatialization of history as it applies to the definition of time in terms of forward-tending thermodynamic processes, most especially considering the modern technological inventions and trends aimed at these ideas of restoration, reconstruction, and preservation.  This argument is left largely unsituated in human thought events.  His spatiality as it applies to time travel is left largely unexpanded (in terms of specific examples and further study of the spatiality of human thought and of large-scale cultural trends) and is thus is unsatisfying in this instance.  This argument’s conclusion is even less satisfying, as he goes on to make a brief unsupported and seemingly simplistic claim about memory, saying “Memories–stored in the neurobiological complex of the brain–would be unmade as time went backwards, and remade as time went forward again.  A different ‘present’ might result, but no one would be able to remember the original ‘present'” (472).  Both the nature and content of this claim seem at direct odds with his lengthy examination of the work of Henri Bergson and J. Allen McTaggart that follows.  Given Ethington’s careful exploration of time and space, specifically as he examines earlier in the essay–in relation to the human him/herself–it would seem that human memory, both collective and individual, is a most important link between spatiotemporal history and its public and private record.  He claims in the following section that Bergson’s distinction of measured time as being an abstraction characterized by the temporality attributed it by memory’s relating of one moment to another is “flawed” due to its “dismissal” of the spatial.  However his own claim concerning memory in the section prior to this seems rooted solely in temporality.  Ethington’s memory is inextricably linked with space as it is ‘unmade’ and ‘remade’ along with all places’ making and unmaking, but this seems to exclude the true spatiality of history as the grounds for memory’s construction of temporality in relation to current place.  A place we have once been and then return to after some deterioration and then return to once again after a restoration may produce many different effects on history as constructed by our memory.  We may feel that the place is actually the same as before the deterioration, or, as is more common, we may construct or experience a layered history.  The place would exist in all of its iterations at once, producing a unique present completely different than the present of the first visit to the place, but in no way neglecting the temporal history of this place.  We remember.  And this memory is the history.  And this history is spatialized because of our temporalization of the place.  The building as it exists now is only spatially significant because of the temporality attributed it by memory.  Human selective explicit perception and implicit total perception in a given place is neglected, leading to a one-dimensional understanding of the situation of time in memory as the process of interactions between both temporalizing the spatiality of the place and spatializing the temporality of the place.  We may perceive the history of the building’s physical processes in terms of the memory of its journey from the first moment we experienced it to now, especially as it relates to all other processes of physical and non-physical restoration.  Or we may perceive the history of this building in terms of its actual construction, deterioration, and reconstruction, especially as it relates to reconstruction of the building’s architectural kin within the neighborhood it inhabits.  Or we may perceive the history of the building in terms of our own inhabitance of the space.  Or we may even perceive the building itself as a single moment which has supplanted the deteriorated moment and the original moment of experience.  Thus Ethington’s claim concerning memory and time travel, as well as his general insistence on the distinction between non-spatialized history (or spatialized history in terms of temporality) and spatialized history (or temporalized history in terms of spatiality) precludes both a true exploration of time navigation as well as the possibility of the spatiality implied in the temporal history constructed through and by human memory and its presence-perception.

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