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In a world where time is a quality, events are not fixed points in certain periods

“Many years later, before the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía would remember that remote afternoon when his father took him to see the ice.” So wrote Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez, when beginning his classic One hundred years of Solitude, narrating the saga of Latin America, which he called Macondo.

García Márquez gave literary expression to time-fiction as a builder of the memory-existence of a region, particularly when he states that Macondo was a tiny village of just twenty mud and bamboo houses, built on the banks of a river, and that “the world was so recent that many things lacked names and to mention them you had to point with your finger”. The fictional intelligibility of time, however, contrasts with the polysemy of its “real” representation.

Augustine of Hippo said that there is awareness of what time is; However, all you have to do is try to express it in words, and you no longer know what it is. Sometimes, time is perceived as the tragic renunciation of possibilities, the entire life that could have been, but was not, according to the poet Manuel Bandeira.

Other times, time is felt to bring unexpected possibilities. There are cases in which things only last a few seconds, but which constitute moments that are worth a lifetime or, as the famous phrase of the blind character Frank Slade (Al Pacino) in the film Women's perfume: “in a moment, you live a life”. However, there are also times when seconds can take a “century”, and have no ontological significance.

In the face of time, there are thousands of words. However, the questions surrounding it remain and multiply, questioning, for example, whether it really exists or whether it is a concept that we created to bring together concerns about which there is more mystery than perceptibility. Not only that. Several other questions emerge, such as: In how many dreams, because of time, have human beings found themselves entangled?

What is the meaning of time stamped on the face, in speech and gestures? Are the words that emerge, the eyes that wander between them, the meanings of the present, which are no longer the same as before, the thoughts and their achievements, works of time? Would religion and its idea of ​​knowledge, prophecies, beliefs, dedication to cults and worship of gods, rites, obligations of religious initiation, etc., exist if it weren't for the enigmatic vacuum of time? Would power maintain itself without the time in which it expresses itself? In the void of your absence, would there be the ideal of freedom and transformation? Anyway, would there be life without time?

From a reference that, as a marker, accompanied the sunrise and sunset, little by little, time began to guide the control of the rhythm of daily life. Contemporaneously, there is a predominance of the textualization of time, that is, the use of language giving life to temporality. Expressions such as duration, passage, continuity, yesterday, today, tomorrow, instant, etc., highlight a relationship between 'being and time' under the mediation of language.

On the other hand, without language, time is perceived, but it lacks meaning. Events such as being born, growing up, loving, transforming, etc., are perceived in temporality and register marks on the being, with him, throughout his existence, producing ways of identifying and understanding them.

One of the most challenging dimensions for human beings is probably that involving time and finitude. In fact, death seems to be a “problem” for those who remain, those who did not die, not for those who left. In this sense, the German philosopher Theodor Adorno said that survivors of tragic deaths did not have the right to live ignoring the “pains of the world”, that is, the suffering of those who suffer the hell of the tragedies that are imposed on them. Yes, they should be in solidarity with them.

There are hells, here and now, everywhere. Saying that “hell is other people”, Swedish playwright and novelist August Strindberg described it as a place where a dazed soul inhabits a splendid palace, leads a luxurious life and even considers himself one of the chosen people. Little by little, however, the splendors evaporate and the stunned creature realizes that he is confined in a miserable place and surrounded by dirt. Sartre gave another (scenic) configuration to the expression.

In any case, we are dealing with metaphors. Psychic hells and corrosive hells of individual conditions of existence, generally even more tormenting due to the lack of perception about what temporality represents. The musical group Titãs sings: “The problem is not mine/Paradise is for everyone/The problem is not me/Hell is others, hell is others”.

Most of our lives – wrote Seneca in Letters to Lucilius – it passes while we are doing unpleasant things, another part while we are doing nothing, and all this while we are doing what should not be done. We are mistaken, says the Senequian lesson, when we think that death is a thing of the future, because, from the “time of life lived”, death has already taken over chunks of us: the years behind us no longer exist.

The relationship between time and finitude seems, in fact, to be inseparable. Therefore, instead of conceiving time in a merely quantitative way, it is convenient to think of it as a quality, like the luminescence of the night over the trees at the precise moment when the rising moon touches the top of the canopy, just like Alan's imagination. Lightman about Einstein's dreams. Or even how the light shows and hides the restless journey of fireflies. In a world where time is a quality, events are not fixed points in certain periods, but rather projections that wander through the space of the imagination materialized by looks, feelings and desires.

*Ivonaldo Leite is professor of sociology of education at the Federal University of Paraíba (UFPB).

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