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    Brave New World

    Remembering the Future

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    The question of time is probably not one which we give much time to thinking about; we have so little time. For thousands of years, philosophers and scientists have struggled to understand what it is. We know that time can be distorted through using gravity, and we know that time is subjective, but we measure it with predetermined units.

    One man who does have definite views on Time is Dr David Wansbrough, an Australian theologian, writer and artist. David is widely known in Russia and beyond for his fascinating lectures, his solo art exhibitions and his writings. His tenth book about Russia will soon be published. We thought it was about time we got him onto the programme to talk about Time. Here are a few highlights of the programme:

    - How did you become interested in time?

    “It was when I was standing outside the headmaster’s office in the third form waiting for a caning. I looked at the clock 20 minutes later and only one minute had gone by…”

    - You have often written about your Aboriginal brother Burnum Burnum. Was the Australian indigenous attitude to time different?

    “I had an Australian spiritual brother, Burnum Burnum….He used to say it was ridiculous that white men carry around watches to tell them when they are hungry, instead of listening to their stomachs….He believed that the Aboriginal people had their origin in a dream time, so that the past was always with them, that if they stood on certain places they remembered the history of that space. So for the white man to come along and say that we will take the uranium out of the earth was sort of like saying: let’s sell the altar cloth in Reims Cathedral, it was a sort of ultimate blasphemy, because the past was always with him. But we in our culture are always planning for the future. You look at all the school lessons, you have to work your mind to exhaustion to get a good mark, all the universities have got job training schemes now, you are looking towards the future, which you never quite catch up with.”

    - If time is specific and linked to different cultures and ways of seeing the world, does that mean that the western concept of time, which I understand be connected with measurements of predetermined units is not the only one?

    “Even the western view has different concepts. You listen to an old man snoring, it's sort of mechanical. Listen to a baby breathe, or see a child skipping and seeing something and becoming excited, this has to do with pulses, which is quite different from a measured interval which is regular. We are wage slaves, we look at the clock when we are recording on the radio, for us, time is something that begins and finishes. We get somebody in to work on the dacha. He doesn't care about time. He starts and he works right through until it is finished… notions of time actually go against skill and excellence. When you are composing music or a picture, or working on physics for example, time is not a notion that you consider.” 

    - In Jung’s definition, coincidences are not coincidences unless they are meaningful. Is there a hidden meaning to things beyond the surface level?

    “When you start talking about coincidences you leave yourself open to gullibility. However when you start discussing mutual contacts and contexts with somebody, you would be surprised to find how connected things are… and this is beyond time….As we said before, the Western world looks to things in advance — they don't live in the moment. The Russian Orthodox Church is wonderful because you get totally involved in the ritual of the moment. It becomes timeless….The same as Buddhism, you live in the moment. Once you start remembering your life, you think about the people who are important to you, it’s as if you are remembering the future.”

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