Thursday, 5 February 2015

Time Travel: Retrograde, Reunion and Revolution

The planet Mercury is moving through its retrograde cycle presently. From Earth’s perspective, Mercury is a tiny planet that regularly appears to slow down in its forward movement around our planet, turn into reverse motion for a while, then move forward once more. This is an optical illusion created by the relative speeds of Earth and Mercury in their orbits, and happens three times a year. Each apparent backward dance lasts for three weeks before Mercury moves into direct forward motion.

The retrograde cycle of going back over old ground is a workable metaphor for we earth-dwellers. The symbolic language of astrology views this period of time as an opportunity to reassess, review and revamp. It’s like a breathing space we may use for re-consideration. During this time, we might discover that we don’t yet have all the information we need to make vital decisions. We can certainly expect breakdowns in communication. Often things we need to know or find re-surface.

All the larger planets have a rhythmic, retrograde cycle in relation to Earth’s movement. During under this period of retrospection, whatever qualities that planet represents come under reappraisal.

So on the weekend at the end of January and beginning of February 2015, Mercury and Jupiter were both in retrograde motion.
Mercury symbolises communication and thought processes, travel and connection.
Jupiter is more philosophical in its symbolism. Its requirement is’ how we do find meaning in our lives?’ When Jupiter retrogrades, we are called to return and question what gives us deeper purpose and faith.

This then, was a very opportune time to hold a Reunion of friends who have been, and still are held together by ideals in our shared future.

Many words that begin in “re” help us to understand how the retrograde metaphor works symbolically. Re-union means coming back into union, after having been apart. We re-turn to an old place we have known before. When we re-member  we bring back together what has been forgotten. The member (the limb) that has been cut out, removed or separated is put back into place and made whole again.
8 Winn Rd 1972

The group of which I was a member, was a collective of idealists and political activists during the 1970s and ‘80s. The original group of 10 with 2 children bought together an 8 bedroomed house in Freemans Bay, a central Auckland, working class suburb. In 1972 when we bought it, the house was in bad repair - a place where alcoholics “dossed” down. It had been one of the original farmhouses of the area and was surrounded with old established trees, with a gully at the back. Soon the neighbouring house No. 12 in the cul-de-sac we lived, was bought by a friend and then two more houses across the gully belonged to friends, lovers and shared children. A community was born.

Although the photos remind us we looked like the proverbial hippies of the time – we were in fact a bunch of radical Womens’ Liberationists committed to nothing less than overthrowing the capitalist system. We thought of ourselves as creating a brave new socialist, republican world, inventing it by living and practicing our ideals. We were intellectuals who practiced our theory – we were social and political activists. Consciousness-raising was an essential part of our manifesto. The Personal is Political dictated our collective dream.

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore

The demands of equal pay, pay equity, equal child-rearing, equal roles in a time of shocking sex-role stereotypes, were some of our demands. But we were also committed to efficient living with a sharing of resources. We were opposed to the nuclear family and thought we could do our bit by sharing one washing machine, one stove, one bathroom etc.
We believed that revolution was possible and were ardent republicans with a strong anarchic streak. Free love was practised with abandon, until we discovered just how high its costs really were. 

On the way to Peace Power & Politics Conference 1975

The first Women’s Refuge based on feminist principles upon which all Refuges are formed today, originated from the women at Number 12. We fought very hard for Abortion on Demand – by helping women to travel to Australia where they could get a legal abortion, and also educating ourselves and other women about our own bodies. There was more than one do-it-ourselves abortion (menstrual extraction) on the kitchen table. Sisters doing it for themselves.

Children were an essential part of our life at Winn Road. 24 hour free child-care was one of our demands and we fervently believed in Children’s Liberation. Parents practiced “benign neglect” of our gorgeous wild children and the 2nd generation thrived on that freedom.

One of the many legendary children's birthday parties

 We were in favour of gay rights, before the word “gay” came into fashion. Maori sovereignty and environmental concerns were part of our agenda and we worked with a variety of political groups of the time. I remember taking our children out nights to slather Ponsonby Road with Save the Whales posters. The kids were in charge of the glue in the back of the van while the adults charged round putting up posters. Our wonderful children were our collaborators in many other such graffiti raids. 
After fourteen years the house was sold and we settled back into separate nuclear families. But the core of our community has always maintained contact with regular picnics and get-togethers. Networks forged since are often grown from the roots we laid down in those long ago times.

It was those very ‘children’ who are in their 30s and 40s now who have been clamouring for a Reunion for some time.
The impetus for a Reunion was also driven by a desire to record our own herstory of that time.
Our beautiful collective home for 14 years

Winston S. Churchill said that history is written by its victors. 40 odd years on I guess you could say our old ideals for the future have failed rather spectacularly.  Capitalism, misogyny, consumerism are still deeply embedded and rampant. We live in dark times and they are getting darker.
Quote from 1984

It is so normal to be written out of the mainstream discourse, even in this small country, that it is hardly worth observing. Voices of the common people are not heard, drowned out by the noise of a continuous patter of formulaic responses by cynical gatekeepers of the status quo. If you don’t speak the language of commodification and neo-liberal claptrap, you just won’t be read or heard except by your friends on Facebook or other forms of social media.
People who disagree with the prevailing ethos and do have communicative clout – the tall poppies – are knocked off their perch pretty quick smart by a nasty smear PR machine that has been operating for some time.
Eleanor Catton. January 2015

The Eleanor Catton hullabaloo of last week is a shameful case in point. She said at an Indian Writers’ Conference;
“At the moment, New Zealand, like Australia and Canada, is dominated by these neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture. They care about short-term gains. They would destroy the planet in order to be able to have the life they want. I feel very angry with my government.”

The rabid, jingoistic hatred from the PM down, directed towards Eleanor because of these remarks shows clearly that the ruling class will go to great lengths to deny any dissenting voice.

Being written out of history is entirely possible. In the latest social history of Freemans Bay our contribution to the area and the politics of the time was completely ignored.

Quote from 1984

I agree with George Santayana who said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". If our younger generation do not know or care what has been done in the past they become mice on a treadmill of history that is nothing but a propaganda machine.  George Orwell’s nightmare vision of the future 1984 becomes 2015, where not only history is re-written but the meaning of language is stolen.

And I know too much to go back an' pretend
'cause I've heard it all before
And I've been down there on the floor
No one's ever gonna keep me down again

It becomes vital then, that we remember and return to our shared past – our personal and political history. Despite time’s toll  - our aging has taken its price on body and memory - it is essential that we tell its tale to the young. Back to the future must become a core value. Our experiences meant something then and still do, but for them to really mean something now, they must be shared and heard.
Time Flies. Ignaz Gunther 1765-70

Just like Mercury’s optical illusion for Planet Earth, time flies fast, and slow, forwards and backwards, depending on the point of view. To quote Einstein, time is relative. It flies when we’re older because our time here gets shorter and shorter. The young, who believe they have heaps of time left in the mortality stakes, live in the infinity of time and can’t hear those finite sand grains of time dripping.  The flow of time’s tale is a subjective experience.
Tempus Erit - The Time Will Come. Francis Quarles 1639

When we were young in our prime, during the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s - time rampaged and raced through us like the mighty Clutha river poured pure and free to the sea. Before they damned and polluted it.
We generated our own powerful, collective electricity then, as we surged and rode that wave of history. We believed we could save the Mighty Clutha from the barbarians and rid the world of the scourge of patriarchy.
The Mighty Clutha River. Otago NZ
However the world has blinked once or twice since then and now.
All our fresh waters are sick. The rivers are damned and hope is a scarce commodity. The patriarchy raises its ugly roaring head high,here and all over the world in the form of the GodFather and Son’s religious bigotry, phallocentric racism, and sex-role stereotyping.

We seem to be running an endless race that can’t be won. When we achieve a small success, yet another yawning cycle opens into another downward spiralling vortex.

I loved the recent movie Interstellar. The visuals of the father falling through the black hole and attempting to communicate with his daughter were deeply moving. It was a striking metaphor of intergenerational communication. Like their attempts, our own struggles to cross the gulf of time and connect vital knowledge are often fraught Just how do we bridge that vast abyss, so the older and younger generations can both move into their respective futures with wisdom?
Interstellar - intergenerational pain

The movie spoke to me of all us elders falling through our own personal black holes of fear of mortality and illness, fear of our experience being forgotten, fear of our unbearable lightness of being. The urgency of the need for intergenerational time travel to try and save the world’s future was powerfully expressed in this story. As was the effort that both generations must make to contact and understand each other so our common future becomes brighter.

Oh yes I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained

Time is such a strange and wonderful phenomenon.
The Creation (mosaic 12 century) Monreale Duomo Sicily
The Christian view of time – which was heaven-made for Capitalism – is a linear one. Apparently good old God set an irreversible historical time into motion with a definite Big Bang beginning and Apocalyptic end. The Hand of God can constantly interfere with the lawful movements of the universe because the universe is made in the image of God.
In this version of time, any worldly authority figure (made in the image of god) can set or stop the time on their linear irreversible timeline (like a factory floor) and then change it at a whim.

Society can be- and is - run by the clock. We the people just have to toe the line and believe in miracles (ie salvation by a capricious father god)

The Clutha Serpent
But there are other ways of viewing time. In the ancient pagans’ understanding of time, it was the river of life. People lived in a conjoined intertwining stream of outer experience and inner consciousness which brought along a different cluster of co-existing events at every moment and thus constantly changed, quantitatively and qualitatively. Humans lived within the stream of consciousness and events - not divorced and separated from the inner and outer space of our world.

La Bocca Della Verita.

The Greeks called this time/life continuum Oceanos .
Oceanos surrounded the earth in a circle and also was envisaged as encompassing the universe in the form of a circular stream or a tail-eating serpent with the Zodiac on the back of it. The serpent continually ate its tail as it turned the Sun wheel’s revolution of Spring, Summer ,Autumn, Winter then Spring once more.

Nowadays science tells our stories and yet time is still a mystery for all of us who are living under its dictates. Living things like melodies are configured by time. Like plants, humans live through periods of wakefulness and sleep. Plants’ budding, blooming, wilting, and rebirthing are all time-bound.

Oscillatory, serial and periodic phenomena are a mysterious aspect of the universe, appearing in waves, rotations, pulsations, turbulences and circulations. According to field theory, even each subatomic particle perpetually sings its song producing rhythmic patterns of energy. Oscillation, seriality and periodicity make time measurable.

The older I become the more I experience time’s subjective, circling motion. Sometimes it moves like a roaring river, sometimes it’s a trickling creek eddying in tremors and gurgles.
It can be likened to a stagnant pool especially when we are stuck in grief or rage, resentment or bitterness - seemingly paralysed in the sludge of toxic memories.
But no matter how slowly time moves it is always streaming through life. It is the great mystery of life and its only constant is change.

Death & Life. Gustav Klimt 1911

Time’s circular and cyclical nature seems crucial to me.
The Chaos theory sites that lines of order are implicit in and emerge from what appears to be chaos.

If it’s possible for our stream of consciousness to merge with the waves of outer events, then tuning into the possibility of change at certain crucial times of re-turn, we can make a shift in the oscillations, take advantage of the turbulence and travel through time.
Love seems to be part of this equation (if Interstellar is on track) for it is Love that allows us to make meaning of life. What and who we love drives us to make the effort required to be an inter-generational time traveller. The ancient Greeks told us that Oceanos (the great river of time/life ) was born of the primal gods Chaos and Gaia (Mother Earth) and sanctified by Eros(Love/Desire).

The god Mercury was a messenger and traveller, with wings on his feet and helmet. When he moves in reverse movement he is offering the opportunity to return to our past and consider our earlier or original ideas, desires and beliefs.
The king of the gods Jupiter in reverse motion asks the question – were they true then and are they true now? If we find them still ringing clear and true – then we find our power.

Time Unveiling Truth. Jean-Francois Detroy

Then we can turn to face the future standing on the shoulders of the past. Then we can ensure that the ones who come after us have strong ground to support them as they stand on our shoulders.

And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
'cause I’ve deepened the conviction in my soul.

With wisdom born of pain we can seize the time, shoulders to the wheel and start the cycle anew.
Tell the time and start the re – volution!

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an' pretend
'cause I've heard it all before
And I've been down there on the floor
No one's ever gonna keep me down again
Oh yes I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman

You can bend but never break me
'cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
'cause you've deepened the conviction in my soul
I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin' arms across the land
But I'm still an embryo
With a long long way to go
Until I make my brother understand
Oh yes I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to I can face anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman
Helen Reddy and Ray Burton 1975

Time Rhythm and Repose by Marie-Louise von Franz.

No comments:

Post a Comment