Saturday, May 18, 2013

In Search of An Ancient-Future

Lenticular Cloud, B.C. - Pandora's Box - digital - Dia Sobin, 2008

"It is never any definite experience which gives me pleasure, but always the quality of mystic adventurous expectancy itself - the indefiniteness which permits me to foster the momentary illusion that almost any vista of wonder and beauty might open up, or almost any law of time or space or matter or energy be marvelously defeated or reversed or modified or transcended….that sense of expansion, freedom, adventure, power, expectancy, symmetry, drama, beauty-absorption, surprise, and cosmic wonder (i.e. the illusory promise of a majestic revelation which shall gratify man’s ever-flaming, ever-tormenting curiosity about the outer voids and ultimate gulfs of entity)….the illusion of being poised on the edge of the infinite amidst a vast cosmic unfolding which might reveal almost anything..."

- H. P. Lovecraft, from a letter to James F. Morton, March 12, 1930, borrowed from this beautiful Teeming Brain essay: Autumn longing: H.P. Lovecraft by Matt Cardin


One morning, a few weeks ago, I awoke with a strange "realization"... which came in the form of an actual (albeit silent) declaration: I am an Ancient-Futurist.

Ruling out "divine-intervention" (and various psychological disorders), it must've been the punch-line of something I dreamt. But, that's dreaming for you; fragments remain in the conscious mind, but you've lost the big picture. Then again, in the following morning's dream, I learned the (Monty-Pythonesque) historical "fact" that Medieval swords and shields were cunningly fashioned from bread dough. It wasn't exactly a eureka moment, but, in the dream, it almost made sense.

But, back (or fast-forward) to the Ancient-Future, which, at least, is something to conjure with. In actuality, I've always been attracted to ancient/futuristic themes. The 2008 image (above) "Lenticular Cloud, B.C. - Pandora's Box" is an example, a literal translation of the meme. Carved in stone, Pandora perpetually clutches her box of plagues, while, overhead, an unidentifiable aerial object interacts with an ancient structure. It's fairly easy to decipher. But, that particular morning, my unconscious mind seemed to be referring to something less literal, a fertile abstraction from the subliminal realm that begged for a response.

It's not as if marrying the past with the future is all that weird.  In the timeless, non-local realm of the unconscious, the dead interact with the living, landscapes from one's childhood - those which no longer exist - arise revitalized, uncontaminated by any fate that eventually befell them, and, often, even oneself is clothed in a younger countenance, as if, somewhere along the way, the experience and effects of time passing have lost significance altogether.

Not even the conscious mind is utterly persuaded by the minutes ticking away on a clock. The minute our focus shifts from the time-centered televised-world to some personal place where we are emotionally, intellectually and/or energetically engaged, huge chunks of time can fall away leaving us mystified and perplexed. Where did that time go?

But, then again, what is time to begin with? According to the Realists, "Newtonian time" is a structure and a dimension in itself, in which events occur sequentially. According to the Presentists, only the present is real and neither the past nor the future exist. From the standpoint of Eternalism, time is also a dimension, married to space in a "block universe". But, according to this plan, although every moment is real and relative to the observer, time does not "pass"; it is a static vista, and neither the past not the future can be modified.

Practically speaking, the measurement of time is a gentlemen's agreement - its increments, as we know them, are fabrications. We experience the passing of time as growth and decay - the old and the new - now and then... but, through all of it, time has no substance, no physical structure, no meaning in itself. In that sense, it's both subjective and relative. We record it in our lives by the events that occur synchronistically. In that way, time is a series of events that coincide with a designated incremental structure.

Chronometry - the measurement of time - is the the time we're most familiar with as we change our calendars and check our watches. Periodic time covers the cycles of the moon and certain biological aspects of organisms. Sidereal time is measured by the stars. Judeo-Christian time is generally linear with a beginning and end.

Obviously, the Ancient-Future could not exist in a linear time frame. It has more of a chance within the philosophical concepts of the East where time is cyclical and quantic. Or, better still, couched in actual quantum descriptions of time - not to be confused with a Quantum Clock - specifically that of quantum entanglement. However, here we're referring to a particle's speed of light - that is, Planck time - in a theory that proposes time is continuous; or, utilizing  the Chronon, which is a proposed quantum unit of time relative to a particle's charge and mass.

from the Wired article: Quantum Entanglement Could Stretch Across Time

Ultimately, the Ancient-Future - and/or the necessary bridge between the two - is forged In the creative imagination: in the musings of science fiction writers - and the quote from H.P. Lovecraft above is key - the diagrams of sacred geometers, the organic landscapes of fractal artists, or by anyone harkening way, way back to some speculative mysterious source (while often using a timeless, fundamental set of tools, such as mathematics), to steal a glimpse of an equally as speculative and mysterious future. But, the key word here is mysterious; that unknown factor which occasionally pulls us out our televised-world-induced stupor to confront the sheer magnitude of our collective ignorance. There is something almost sacred about this sense of the mysterious (and our ignorance!), but, not in any officially religious sense. In other words: it can't be googled.

Which is not to say I didn't try googling Ancient-Futurist/Futurism... but, apart from some mysterious social networker, an electronic musical composition or two, and another scary Christian hybrid theology, I drew a blank. There is Retro-futurism, which is interesting but not quite the same. There are a few jewelry designers using Ancient-Future as a descriptive term (one or two whose designs resonate). There are theories in the speculative range, such as the paleocontact hypothesis (a guilty pleasure). Design-wise, there's Steam-punk and Cyber-punk, of course... which sometimes hints, stylistically, at what I'm trying to describe; as does Futurism, in a marginal sense.

And, yet, what was I really referring to by the term that fateful morning? "Days of Future Past"? Or, perhaps these "Days of Future Past" (which can be found here in its entirety). Histories of things to come? Archaeology in the inner-galactal realm? Say, a type of psychic archaeology, if you will. Or maybe something as tangible as the event photographed (via the Hubble) below, an actual collision of galaxies, 330 million light-years away (and a fate predicted for own galaxy in the far future...).

Stay tuned. Further explorations will ensue!

When galaxies collide... found here.

Note: It has recently come to my attention that, synchronistically, the ever-intrepid (and ever-prolific) Tam B, over at the previously mentioned blog, seems to be tackling a similar set of themes from a variety of perspectives. But, no, she and I are not comparing notes, and we are arriving at our destinations independently. Meanwhile, check out her latest post: a collection of some real-time ancient-futuristic dwellings!  


  1. Great post! Needless to say, I think you're onto something.

    Thanks for the mention, Dia. That jewellery is fascinating - Mad Max meets Stargate.

    1. Thanks, T.

      I actually started this post the day after the dream, (or, whatever it was)... but, got a little sidetracked by the meat-space matters at hand. So, I'm just slowly picking up the threads from where I left off.

      Mad Max & Stargate! Throw in David Lynch's Dune, and you've got 3 of my top picks for films with ancient/futuristic themes and/or ambience. :-)

  2. A most intriguing post..the sort that sets the mind abuzz and adrift between nanonucleic particles of quantumized time as if something concrete could be teased from the mysteries and harnessed for understanding.

    I have always loved your Pandora artwork. That is a masterpiece.

    As for "ancient-futurist" -- are not the blooms of tomorrow planted in the seeds of today? A broad overview of history tends to show we simply cycle the same actions over and over, albeit with better technology as we wander hither in these cycles. But....I see that "ancient-futurist" means FAR more than deep as to befuddle the sense in attempting to connect all the dots within the depth of the concept.

    I do hope there is FAR more to come on this topic.

    1. Well, yeah, now that you mention it, the future must always - and will always - be of ancient origin. Then again, maybe my dream was just an exaggerated play on words, i.e., I'm merely an aging futurist. I certainly do feel ancient lately! ;-)

      it's the kind of multi-dimensional topic, however, whereas there are just more and more questions instead of answers. And I, alas, am not one of the great minds! I will try to get to the bottom of it in my own peculiar way though - but, don't expect any Great Reveals!