Monday, 20 April 2009

Falling thorugh Time

Chinese has an interesting point of grammar. When we talk about weeks we use 《上》 to talk about the past and 《下》to talk about the future. 上(shang) on its own means up, above or on top of and 下(xia)signifies the opposite. If you, as I, have a strangely visually wired brain then you will probably join me in seeing this quite interesting concept of falling through time; going from 上to 下, up to down. Granted the same cannot be said for when we talk about other periods of time such as days or months, a differing system is used, but I like this imagery so I am going to stick with it.

It was always quite hard for me to grasp, this concept of us moving downwards through time. Maybe it is a western mindset but I always visualised in my head us building upwards through life almost as a kind of construction site and we were all creating our own little sky scrapers which would have occasional bridges across to others’. In my head humanity resembled one big city with lots of high rise buildings and walkways. As I said, I am an overly active visual daydreamer.

I remember that in RE class we often addressed the concept of fate and the amount of choice we have in life and I always struggled to express my viewpoint. Something along the lines of “I think fate does exist but not really because I think we can choose where we go but we still have to follow this path thing but I’m not sure… what are we talking about again?” would regularly exit my mouth. Somehow I managed to scrape an A in my RE GCSE despite my apparent lack of ability of explaining myself. I also earned myself a half decent A in my Maths GCSE. However, I still maintain that I struggle to add together double digit numbers and won’t even touch triple digits with a barge pole – says a lot about the British exam system, no?

Anyways, I be digressin’.

This concept of falling and the imagery that came with it kind of handed me an alternative to the ‘Humanity City’ concept, this helped me to rearrange my thoughts in terms of a path in life and how it is set out. If we are falling through time then we have little control because, well… we are falling. Maybe we can spread our arms, slow down and enjoy the view for a bit like a parachutist or tuck in like a bullet and fly through parts of our life and look back in 5 years and realise we remember nothing (case in point, my early teens.) Some times we get knocked by the walls of our path of ‘fate’ but we don’t have a chance to stop and catch our breath, we just have to keep falling and falling into the unknown . Sometimes we fall towards a fork in the road and notice just in time for us to kick ourselves off the sides into the path of our choosing, sometimes we notice the fork too late and have to take the hand that is dealt to us.

I am still not sure which concept I prefer; the ‘Humanity City’ or the ‘Falling through Time’. The later has a certain romantic quality to it that I kind of like, we only have so much control – which is close to what I was trying to express in my RE classes. I am also musing over whether these concepts can be considered Western and Oriental, there is certainly a very American and Thatcher-like philosophy to the City concept in terms of building your own destiny, and the Falling concept feels more Chinese… although I cannot place my finger on it (not just the fact I took this idea from a piece of Chinese grammar.)

So while I am trying to figure out where I stand in terms of my two little theories let me know which you prefer. Would you be more inclined to take the view that we are 100% in control of our destiny, building our lives and relationships like metropolises, or would you rather place your lives more in the hands of fate, destiny, chance or whatever you want to call it? Falling through time like little rag dolls.

This may seem like a bit of a pretentious blog, discussing fate and all that jazz, but it is in no way intentional. Those of you that know me irl will probably know this is genuinely what happens when I have too much time on my hands (i.e. when in an airport) – my mind wanders and I all of a sudden become really philosophical.

Anyways – I will see you soon.





Dave said...

I like them both actually! I think they're both good representations, but with the falling one I don't think it's fate that's guiding me, it's more society, standards, expectations... Stuff like that. When I was 10 I pretty much knew where I'd be at 20 - in university. Not because it was fate, because that's what you do. Of course being out of education means there's far less certainty and structure, but I still think society is the tunnel, it's just bigger now. Also there's more choice, so I can kinda fly... not properly - if you could fly upwards you'd be going back in time... More like batman or Buzz Lightyear.


Jordan said...

I'd like to think that it's a little bit of both. That maybe you live in this huge metropolis, with tons of high rise buildings and a bunch of bridges connected you, but sometimes, you accidently step off the ledge of the building and you go tumbling down.

I think we all control our fates at sometimes, but I also think that there's also a path that has already been laid down for us. I think that that path is already there and that we choose which way we end up going.

Without trying to be a religious nut (because I'm really not), I believe that our final destination is already picked for us, but en route there, we choose the paths we walk, the forks we take and the people we choose to keep and the people we choose to disregard. I think that there are certain hurtles that are placed there that we have to overcome in our own way.

So I guess all in all, I think that it's just a combination of both. But I'm more of an optimistic person and I'm much more inclined to say that we live in this huge metropolis because I don't particularly like the thought of falling through life.

JohnnyDurham19 said...

I agree... I like the "falling through time" theory. It does have a certain romantic quality to it. Personally, I buy in to the other concept though, that we build our own future. I don't believe in destiny, or fate. I agree with Dave though, that society and its expectations guide us to some degree... but yeah, that's not fate.. and we still have the choice to make our own decisions and lead our lives in the direction we want.

but yeah.. that's just my 2 cents :P

oh, and welcome back to england, you lovely, lovely fellow! we've missed you <3

Nicholas said...

The word "fate" has been used too much. In movies, literature, etc, so I won't say that I believe in fate. However, if you think about it, many things have already been decided the millisecond we are conceived. Simple example: If you're born in England, there's no way you will be President of the USA. Or a Geisha. Or a tribal leader in Botswana... you get my jist. Many things, many paths in life are already chosen before we make our first step in this world.

Now we can achieve many things with hard work, dedication, but we also cannot hope to achieve many other things, no matter how hard we try. You cannot become a fantastic musician if you're practically tone deaf and clumsy like hell and you cannot become an architect if you lack any skill in spatial imagination.

If you add all of these things up, many paths are pre-chosen or rather pre-blocked for us. We have the choice between many paths in life, but not all... it's kind of a negative destiny thing.
"I have no idea what you will do with your life, but you sure as frick won't do this and this and this and this...."

tumble said...

I've been learning chinese since I was little, so I always took the shang and xia thing for granted. Your blog made me think about the significance of that, and the thing about fate is really interesting.

When you talked about the Falling concept in chinese culture, did you mean phrases you3 yuan2 (to be fated to meet) and yuan2 fen4 (the affinity between two people)? Just a thought. and sorry for the lack of chinese software!