Passive Listening (PL24):
Temporal Dilation of the Eternal Now

Kim Cascone

“the troubadour sings his last song
in the graveyard of light
where old souls dance
under a bejeweled night”

Humans generate rhythms on myriad time scales. When we hear the word “rhythm” we tend to think of it as a characteristic of music, but if we zoom out and examine longer time-frames, we see that human activity is also rhythmic. If we were to sit undisturbed and observe an urban center for one entire year we would see, and hear, rhythms, i.e., periodic repetitive activity, occur over the time span of one day, one week, one month, one season and one year. Like a musical composition, these temporal structures contain rhythms and are also rhythmic themselves.

Much of human activity synchronizes with the rhythms of nature. The majority of our activity takes place during daytime as compared to nighttime, but because of the speed at which our lives move today natural time has been reduced to a one-dimensional dot experienced as an “eternal now.” As we sit observing human activity in an urban center we see people rushing to and fro, ensconced in earbuds and thumbing messages into touch screens. They scuttle about comfortably separated from their environment, living inside this virtual dot of eternal now where the future arrives unannounced then quickly shuttles off into the past barely leaving a footprint in its wake.

Our current experience of this eternal now is as a stream, so it should come as no surprise that online media is also being replaced by streams, further compressing our consciousness into the eternal now. The psychological experience is like being in a perpetually neon-lit, windowless gambling casino where the rhythms of nature go by outside hidden from view. The buffered comfort of this temporal cocoon is powered by endless convenience, with the goal of engaging us in endless consumption.

When presented with a work of art scaled to natural time we engage a different set of perceptual tools with which to experience it. Our objective, day-to-day consciousness and our inner unconsciousness have a different sense of " duration." Shifting to our unconscious perception moves us out of the virtualized “stream time” of the eternal now towards experiencing time as governed by natural rhythms. As “Passive Listening (24)” plays I notice a beam of sunlight slowly crawl across our living room floor, morning birds gradually stop singing the day into existence, a neighborhood cat performs his afternoon ritual of bird hunting, the sunset casts mottled sunlight into our bedroom – when we dilate our experience of now we can move outside of time altogether – this is how nature gives up her secrets to us.

This twenty-four hour work presents us with a rare opportunity to not only observe nature in her manner of operation but to also become contiguous with her. By allowing the dilation of time to heal the technologically-driven damage to our psyches we can reconnect with the rhythms of nature and learn to become whole human beings again.