We fetishize the offline experience, especially in regard to time.
I admit I cherish my film photographs and negative rolls in shoeboxes: a tangible buildup of time. Or recently, during a weekend in Sonoma County, my husband and I stayed in a cottage that had a VCR and two movies on VHS — I had to stand next to the TV for five minutes — five minutes! — and wait for the tape to rewind.
Pure and precious offline moments, I thought and laughed to myself.
And yes, this fetish is silly. But there’s something to be said about traveling and revisiting a physical place after some time: to experience the strange but pleasurable sensation of going back in time to a past self — naive and incomplete, longing and believing, in awe of the world — by simply sitting in the same exact spot you once did. To linger in a place you discovered years ago — Mirador de San Nicolas at the top of the Albayzin in Granada — and gaze again at the Alhambra from afar, framed this time by snowy mountain peaks, and feel a dose of your past injected into you as the sight of this majestic palace, the sounds of the many guitars plucked in this plaza, and the smiles of the people sipping wine along the top of the wall all fuse to recreate an experience. To mesh the memory you’ve held of Granada with now, with you right there, perched on a stone bench.
These moments under the Andalusian sun of people-watching and observing and thinking are lovely and all, but also a complete mindfuck. My past and present collide here in Granada — just as with any other city I’ve revisited — and they should: I’ve changed. I sit leisurely and absorb everything in front of me, but quickly realize that’s not really what I’m doing. Somehow, I’ve entered a special dimension — that space only accessible in these sorts of moments — where time truly reveals itself. Where time is more than the past, present, and future; and more than here and there and the line that connects them.
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I’m here in Granada with my work team, and one evening the idea of time, physics, and multiple dimensions and universes briefly manifested itself. Online, I’m often confronted by a linear display of time; I think of Facebook’s emphasis on my life’s events placed just so, assigned with dates and slotted onto a line — a “timeline” that ultimately makes no sense when you really think about it, as our lives unfold in much richer and more complex ways. I also think about how I can fabricate time on my iPhone screen, within my Instagram app — how I can manufacture meaning and context, and thus nostalgia, with just a filter, freezing a moment as if glazing and sealing a ceramic vase that’s baked in a kiln.
And then I read stuff like this piece on temporary photography and how Snapchat and its disappearing images are “tiny protests against time.” It’s interesting that we now create things specifically to forget, or to rebel against (our common view of) time, and while part of me finds this contrived, the other part appreciates the idea.
So there are all these things we do to manipulate time and place and space on the web — temporary photographs, audio mashups, video montages, vines mashed together on Vinepeek. A collaborative digital mix of creation and destruction, of playing with time. It’s incredible.
But there’s nothing quite like thinking about time, and building montages of my life, within the headspace of my own mind while traveling — experiencing flashes of emotions and sensations of the past and present in the rawest way, where photo filters don’t exist. Where time is not linear at all.
I’m here for just another few days, still riding atop that special, inexplicable plane, where I’m observant and malleable — remembering moments from my last trip to Granada, but also discarding others for the new ones I’ve created this week. And this process makes me realize that places like this are timeless, and are vaults rich with everyone’s memories.
I thought I wasn’t going to write or post anything here until I returned to San Francisco, but it’s always nice to take advantage of that slim window that surfaces when I travel.
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