“How much time do we have?”

This sentiment haunts The Jacket, a film about consciousness. Although no plausible physical mechanism is provided for time travel, we witness the lead character adapt proactively to the most improbable scenario: discovering himself in a future timespace in which he has already died. Instead of engaging a futile struggle to avoid what has been foreordained, Jack uses the forays into the future to identify, strategize, and act to change elements in his present that influence the unfolding of time for others. The physical fact of his own death cannot be undetermined, but the trajectories of others’ lives might be shifted just enough to lead to (at least potentially) more satisfactory, less painful unfoldings.
“I know the difference between reality and delusion,” Jack asserts. “I’m not delusional, the real events that have happened to me are crazy.” (“Quote” based on memory.)
The craziness of real events is a theme in the other film I saw last week, Children of Men. Although it seems too far-fetched to be believed that all women might become infertile more-or-less simultaneously, that “reality” serves as the backdrop for the dissolution of society in the face of events too dramatic (apparently) to be managed on the human scale. While viewing the movie, which depicts an escalation of immigrant-baiting and an intensifying police state in England, I kept thinking about institutional and interactional fallout from global warming. Given the existing gaps among socioeconomic classes &emdash; globally (between countries and regions) as well as internal to national populations &emdash; the spread of anomie seems quite likely. Such chaos can conceivably be countered by cumulative acts of individual and collective consciousness such as that demonstrated by Jack as he moves between wearing and not wearing the jacket, back-and-forth in timespace, discovering a way to maintain the continuity of his be-ing.
The combined image of possibility presented by juxtaposing the two movies reminds me of Shemaya, who recently gave me her take on global warming. “It’s dramatic change,” she said, “just like disability. You’re going along, having your life, and suddenly things change drastically.” Dramatic change requires adaptation and issues of survival. I agree with the parallel of the microsocial experience of disability with the macrosocial event of weather-disrupted institutional systems; the distinction of scale seems relevant. The challenges that confront the newly disabled to retain, maintain, and reconstruct a social world fit to live in are magnified by the scale of cooperation required to shift major global societal flows.

3 thoughts on ““How much time do we have?””

  1. re: The Children of Men
    There’s a church in Madrid on which is inscribed a line from Proverbs: El Dio delicias en los hijos de hombres. God delights in the children of men.
    Nice irony in that title.

  2. Irony is one of the premiere forms of our time, isn’t it?
    Humorous, even admirable, when well-deployed, but more often than not in service of the status quo through its most common effect of diffusing action.

  3. Hey d.b., you still around?
    I keep thinking about irony – and the quotation you shared, and matters of time and timing.
    Your timing was exquisite. I keep remembering the final scene from Children of Men, off they go in that boat, will they be rescued or die? Have we “children” no hope? Am I too naive to believe that there is hope?
    I’m reading “Life and Death in the European Parliament” (2004), which is a mix of fiction and memoir from a former Swedish MEP, Per Gahrton. At one point he lays out two extreme rationales for the EU (both quotes from p. 63):
    “…we must merge Europe’s states to create a strong entity that can create peace and ecological balance on Earth. We must fight the power of financial capital, introduce ecological taxes, build up a corps of peace brokers and peace troops.”
    “…quite different reasons for turning the EU into a super-state. To defend Europe’s interests against competition from the USA and China. To build up a defense wall against Europe’s poor neighbours [and] to shut out refugees from Africa and the Middle East. To arm to uphold Europe in the battle between civilisations for world supremacy.”
    It seems to me that both arguments touch elements of reality – even of necessity. What strikes me as ironic (be forewarned: I lack the ability, as yet, to make it funny) is that as much as the European Parliament wants to be a centering institution (one that citizens and other institutions look to for reference and guidance), it seems to be undermining – or at least underutilizing – its own capacity to generate the broad-based identifications necessary for building such a sociocultural future.

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