Logogram from Arrival (2016)
What is time?
Are there beginnings and endings?
Can you trust your memories?
If you could see your whole life and all the good and bad things that would happen, would you change any of it?
These are questions that are floating around my head as I process one of the most beautifully made films about time and love I have ever seen, Arrival. I won’t get into to much detail if you haven’t seen it, but I was left with a powerful parting thought I would like to share with anyone living in today’s cynical and jaded world; perception.
traditional Japanese ensō
Perception is how leaving work on a Friday afternoon can feel so amazing, and how returning to work the following Monday can seem like agony. Why these two are different is your prior knowledge of events yet to happen. You perceive an outcome based on events set in motion, almost like you can see the future.
Perception of “your” story and how you view it thru the lens of memory is a deeply personal and unique thing. A tragic ending may be a beautiful one in reverse. How you choose to remember your story is all a matter of perception. Before you start rolling your eyes into the back of your head I’m not going to say everything can be positive, or has a silver lining. What I’m saying is that memories often compare yourself in the present to yourself at some point in the past, usually inaccurately.
What if the element of time was removed from that comparison? Rather than viewing your story as a linear series of events, one after another, what if they were circular in nature? Before this derails into a philosophy blog and we all have to break out our Eternal Return essays by Nietzsche I think it’s safe to say nearly all of us have thought that time is cyclical rather than linear. The first time you experienced déjà vu you might have thought this. You may question the reality of your existence when you get déjà vu, and zone out and think about the multiverse when trying to remember if you preheated the oven or not for that frozen cheese pizza you’re drooling over.
Is the universe in eternal recurrence? Is time linear or circular? Can you trust your memories?