Eric: Yeah, right?
Cami: Not to mention the whole other universe of physicists who argue that time doesn’t exist. But I guess we could leave that part for another talk.
Nico: Ok, because I think for us babies time flows backward.
Cami: What do you mean?
Nico: When I was born, I could not make much difference in what I saw or heard. And little by little things started to become more … bounded. As if the room was tidying itself. So maybe I am facing the other side then? Of the river, I mean. I’m looking at the springs. Does it invert time?
Eric: Now the future would be coming in your direction, right? That’s interesting. And the future would always rise from the springs, not as in a model of progress. The future is coming from the earth itself.
Nico: And the bubbles and the little waves around my body are the present. Now the present is the playground!
Cami: But I have to say I glimpse a problem here. When the past just flows away from me, and I flow away from it, I’m constantly letting go of my memories. This can, of course, be a good thing, but it can also serve as a pretty good excuse for colonialism’s continuing erasure of its past and present violences.
Eric: Yes, and now that I’m thinking about it, the future becomes too highlighted. When you have your eyes so focused on this source, on this spring of eternal future, it can draw the Future, with a capital F, the future of progress. This future, springing from the earth, becomes some kind of resource to be exploited.
Nico: Wasn’t it Ailton Krenak who said that the future doesn’t exist?
Cami: Yes, he was talking about how the idea of the future is convenient for capitalist, colonialist, extractivist powers. And how it is so closely related to the idea of progress. He says that the future is a promise, some kind of hope for a thing that is coming, but never comes.
Eric: And I think he was talking about what changes, if you think of it as the immediate aftereffect of our actions and decisions. Then it doesn’t exist beyond our actual doings, and hence it is also our present responsibility for the world.
Nico: Hum … Even though adults relate babies to the future all the time, maybe we babies don’t really work with the idea of future ourselves.
Eric: Gotcha. See, this morning you were really excited about eating strawberries, but you got distracted three seconds later, before we even headed to the kitchen.
Nico: Time passes differently for you! No offense.
Cami: None taken. But maybe we can say that time passes differently for everything that exists. Some physicists also think that this is a consequence of Einstein’s relativity.
Nico: Are we talking about the guy with the tongue and funny hair?
Eric: Oh, you know who Einstein is.
Nico: It’s just that I thought you didn’t!
Eric: Ok. But it’s mindblowing to think that one instant here would last more than eight years in a galaxy such as Proxima Centauri b, and even more if you invert it: what is our correspondent of one second in Proxima Centauri b? You kind of extend time to such small intervals that it kind of stops making sense.
Nico: Wow, speed it up! For me, it’s like there are so many things happening between what you call now and what comes next … You seem not to have such a hard time waiting for things, but for me it’s just hell. What you call the future is usually so extended that it seems quite a random election of probabilities, colored by a handful of other interesting events.
Eric: If things pass through you less quickly than they do for us, does it mean that the future is closer for you than it is for us? I mean, if we keep the point of view of our speed.
Nico: Gee whiz, I just said I might not have a sense of the future and you take the opportunity to shove it even closer to my nose. I mean, why would you need the future if you already have it, huh?
Cami: All this reminds me of how the Aymara people locate time in space. The past is what stands ahead of you, the »front time.« It is what stands before their eyes – and quite literally since the word used for »eyes« and »earlier« is the same. So the Aymara point to the front when talking about the »old times,« or the earlier generations, or even the »gentil timpu,« the times before the Spanish invasion. And accordingly »a future day« is what stands on the back. The curious thing is that, while they use many different gestures to sign the past (in front) and the present (on the floor), their gestures are far less elaborate when they want to refer to the future.
Nico: So it’s like I am looking instead at the mouth of the river? But the springs are the future?
Eric: So the future stands behind you and you cannot see it. Or maybe you just get some glimpses of it when you turn your head. But you are mostly looking at the past and playing with bubbles in the present.
Nico: So the past is yet to come – yes, I’m quoting that talk of Karen Barad now.
Cami: Anytime! But also, if you think about it, now the past is changing. You are constantly looking at the past, but the past is never the same. It’s as if the past events continue to exist with their own futures, that can be different than the one you are living now.
Nico: So it’s not possible to step in the same past twice, huh? Adiós, my good Heraclitus!
Eric: And now the future is coming toward your back. So all the random projections and possibilities of the future are slipping away, except for the particular ones that are actually touching your body, becoming bubbles and splashes. Right now. Around you.
Nico: Yes, especially if it rains!
Eric: Oh, yeah, the rain! The flux of the river changes with the conditions, more water, less water, evaporation, mist …
Cami: Would it be too much of a cosmological cake if I mentioned that for the Quechua the future is above and the past below?
Nico: More of a pan-cake, I would say.
Cami: Okay, but the mix becomes particularly interesting if you think about what Vine Deloria said about a spatially situated notion of history. History for the West occurs primarily on a temporal frame, even if that frame is metaphorized on a spatial surface like an arrow. Deloria contrasted it with his and other peoples’ strongly spatial mode of thinking. Locations in native peoples’ homelands have countless and multiple stories. And temporal knowlegdes are intrinsic to the landscapes, deeply specific, dealing with precise geographical formations, conditions, features, and rhythms.
Eric: So we don’t have to stay only in the river anymore. Time is all around. Everywhere you look there is history.
Nico: But with different times at every location.
Eric: And different pasts are still happening. So a new act in the present can change the past. Cami: Yes, the landscapes change, and I move through them, and make them while living through them. So if the past is not changing, I can turn to a different place. If what’s inhabiting my view is a bad memory, if it makes my body heavy and sad, I can change my horizon. Walk to forget, say the Katxuyana.
Nico: Then you have it, huh?
Nico: Your ending.
Cami: I don’t get it.
Nico: Because if it’s too soon for me to crawl, it’s even sooner to walk. And, well, if I don’t walk, I can’t forget. I see it all.