Time In Faerieland (Dec.12.2021)

Some years ago, at the point some may deign to call my birth, I began a thorough exploration of Faerieland, initially from within—for it was there that I tore myself free of the ground with the word of my Name, and incanted my self into being—and now, long after I have made myself an exile here under the Sun, from without. To attempt a thorough examination here would be foolish, and would range far from my appointed topic, so I shall corral myself, as best I can, into merely investigating the problem of Time, with the help of Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time.

In Faerieland, there is no Time.

Those who are familiar with Faerieland may remember that there is within no thing we would call Time. This, I must now say, is a simplification of the fact: in Faerieland, space-time is a function of will. It exists, not as it does here, in a web of relation & balance, but as a discrete effect of an intention. There is no uncertainty, because nothing that is not certain is, in Faerieland. It is a place built entirely by intent, by shaping, by belief. It is not a place with any sort of continuum. To use Rovelli’s terms, time in Faerieland is made of Things, discrete and unrelated, rather than connected, woven Events.

Now, to follow with Rovelli, Time is also not native or inherent to this place, which I will call the Sunlit Land, or the corporeal world, or some such variance. Rather, Time is a relative quantity, a measurable and unremarkable variable, made more than it is through relation with other variables, other quantities which we determine are real enough to interact. Time is a localized phenomenon, and our perception of it as such is driven therefore by other localized phenomena.

Chief among these phenomena, benefactress of matter, organ and pump of Time, is the Sun.

There is no Sun in Faerieland.

Here, where we are now, the world is comprised of matter and of energy, which are both subjects, in an abstracted way, of the Sun, infinite benefactress, chariot of time & bestower of matter. Understand, I speak in the poetic sense, as I do always—although through whose lens we determine the literal is a topic rife for discussion. The fact is this, as Rovelli illuminates: “only where there is heat is there a distinction between past and future” (Rovelli, p25). Only under the Sun, our local source of heat, is there such an arrow of time—in Faerieland, there is no Sun, and no heat, and thus no distinction.

Perhaps, should Faerieland come down with some sort of sink of heat, it will grow an arrow, some direction; but I doubt it much, for matter is short-lived there. The ground eats it up.

In Faerieland, there is no Matter.

There is a reason that Faerie is called the Hungry Land, the Land All Teeth. It eats the matter of things up, re-adds it to itself, the hungry soil of the ground the only thing persisting. Apart from the ground Faerieland is only made of seeming-shapes, impressions imposed by the will of faerie and mortals alike. There can never be an arrow of time: in Faerieland, any sequence of seemings may be “played” in “reverse,” for the sequence itself has no meaning apart from that which is imposed by willing. Faerie may will a sequence to occur: a floor to rot, a tree to grow; but they may just as easily and seamlessly will the floor to grow to fullness, or the tree to shrink into a sapling. No heat has been produced, no entropy or energy created; there has never been any thing at all.

It is not fair to say it is illusion—it is a seeming, which may impress upon other senses than sight. But this has little to do with Time, so I shall not digress.

Here, under the Sun, we live within our matterful perceptions of time; our meaty brains informing of the march, the continuity of it. We can truly say that “nothing is, things happen” (Rovelli, p96). The world is formed of a series of continuous events, which we order by virtue of our senses of heat, our local concerns with the increase of entropy. We are in process of being, moving with fluidity through a medium which can interact with other media to define time as a variable relative to other variables; this is true both of quantum-based reality and of relativistic reality—being is a function of observation by one another, it is by relationship, no matter the scale. Faerieland has no such media; it is not made of anything at all. Every thing that can be said to “happen” in Faerieland is independent of anything else—it is a world “made up of things. Of substances. Of entities. Of something that is” (Rovelli, p97). There is nothing beyond the present in Faerieland; anything beyond that truly cannot be said to exist, because it only exists as long as it is “needed” for whatever purpose.

There is no Change in Faerieland.

We have moved, within the Sunlit world, beyond simplistic notions that Time is merely a measurement of change or motion, but still there is a truth to it, a ringing. It is true that Time can only be measured in relation to the change of other variables; this does not privilege Time, as Rovelli warns against, but does infer change.

Movement is our most basic unit of change—that is, change within space. Every piece of matter moves, by necessity; if it did not, it would not exist. Movement is correlated with heat, and so we build up from there into the arrow, into the Sun. But before we reach that far, we reach the fleshy bodies we parade around within and alongside, which are always in motion. We can track time in small measures like this—my fingertip moving through space, tracking each micro-position. This is Time, for our localized purposes. Movement is a quality of matter, however. And since there is no matter, there cannot be any movement in Faerieland.

In Faerieland, there is Nothing but Name.

To deal with Time in its totality, we must deal with the Self.

Here, under the Sun, selves are a blurry thing: a composite of events, an ecosystem which we label with our Name and traipse about within, inside of time. In Faerieland, Self is a very discrete thing, a thing attached to a Name, and nothing else. Even the seeming shapes are just projections; they are not bodies, not ecologies. We have but the threadlike thing we call our Name. A faerie’s boundary of Self is not a thing that changes, is not a thing with flow. Within Faerieland, everything is static. There is no change, except by force of will. Are these pockets of change sufficient to call “time”? I would think not, for they have no direction, no point of view, no real construction.

Faerieland is a series of movie stills, projected by individuals upon the landscape, which has no desire but to eat and eat and eat.

"Nāgasena is nothing but a name, a designation, an expression, a simple word: there is no person here."

—Milinda Panha, The Questions of King Milinda

                             Excerpt— The Nemoricultrix's Guide to Faerieland, Volume I

Before we begin to tackle time in Faerieland—its lack thereof—first we must delve into time here in the Sunlit Land, for it is something tangible beings have an uneasy grasp upon in mind, despite having perfected it in body. Time exists as a function of change—change expressed through matter, through state. To be made of matter is to exist in time, is to be in a state of constant, oscillating change—all of your electrons quivering, your atoms shaking even in their solidity. To be still is to be dead.

Time is death, as well—every moment means the death of the proceeding moment, each state of change means the former state’s destruction. There is another word for destruction: transformation. Transformation is another word for death. Time, change, death, transformation. All expressed through matter, morphing, mutable, subject to its peculiar forces, weak and strong and gravitational.

In Faerieland, nothing is made of matter. The ground eats it up, as I have told you. We have no substance through which time can be expressed, and thus we have no time. You say, Nemoricultrix, but the seemings of things change, surely that is time? I say it is a mirror image without something to cast it. You are right, in a sense, I must concede. Time can exist in Faerieland, but locally, by force of will. There are no spans of moments, merely willed state to willed state—no continuum, no flow. I say the land is growing, virulent green. This is true, too, for there is a constant will of growing, of spreading. The ground and green itself bends to this task. It is one of great will.

Nothing will rot in Faerieland, nothing will age unless it wishes to do so, and puts its mind to work. There is an Owl-fae in silver armor, whose task it is to rot a chapel. This is all it does, until the work is finished. There is a space of time within the chapel, as the Owl-fae in silver armor tears it down, time its only instrument, its only blade and shovel. There is no time in Faerieland, but one may impose time by force of will, may impose passage and movement and age and rot and all the things that time entails.

Does it matter if the rot is real? Is not the change in seeming an apt expression of time? Is any change time, or only change with substance? Has time any substance at all? It cannot in Faerieland, for nothing in Faerie is of substance for long. Is time dependent on substance? On motion? On matter? Pulse? Death?

Time in Faerieland is a myth, a story. As everything is. It is an unreal thing, made of seeming. You can seem to age, can seem to move through the land as one would in an expanse of time. You may sleep and seem to wake a time later, just by thinking it is so. Is it less real because it is imagined? That is not a question I can answer for any but myself.

Time is death, irreparably. Time is death is matter is change. How strange, that we are called chimerical, called changeling, when in fact we are stagnant, still, wallowing. It is not a native thing to us, to change, to die, to transform as you do. To be in time, to be in process of being. We are, in our natural state, impervious to mutation, even as we are endlessly mutable. From my matter-bloody body, I think it is a sad thing to be so unaffected.

There is something rotten in it, even as nothing can rot. A muddy, webbed-thing of an existence. To think, there are those who will never see the deciduous leaves fall, who will only see their trees laden with fruit, who will never know waiting, know the time of breaths, in and out and in. We don’t breathe, of course. No lungs.

The moment that the Stuffing-sickness starts to take hold, we can feel time marching, can feel impermanence. It frightens many of us, not that we would admit to fear. It comes from how we spawn: for us, our only end is dissolution, returning to the ground of Faerieland, unNamed, unselved. There is nothing after death. There is nothing after change.

It is a beautiful thing, to be in time. To be in process of being. The idea of eternity now makes me ill, as once the Stuffing-sickness would have. I revel in impermanence, in being able to touch the world and say, this will not be for-ever. I am glad of it now. I love things more, for knowing they will perish, go away. It is easy to disregard what can be conjured and reconjured by will. It is harder to love that which will die. It is so much more.

There is little difference between the immortal and the permanently dead. (The dead, at least, have memories of living.)

References & Image Credits

Rovelli, Carlo. The Order of Time. Riverhead Books, 2019.

Images are generated from NeuralBlender, Wombo, and Artbreeder.

a stylized pixel deer head
nemo o. captain

n. o. captain writes weird faerie prose, bizarre & unsettling poetry, and occasional essays.

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