February 24th, 2020: 12 Monkeys Redux. Three Synthesis of Time

On February 24th, 2020, before COVID-19 was officially acknowledged as a pandemic, I experienced something very strange on the street. As I was walking, a man with a heavy Eastern European accent, a shaved head, and dressed in a white shirt and beige suit approached me. He politely greeted me and then disclosed that he had just been released from a mental institution. He proceeded to ask me what day it was, and when I responded that it was Monday, he corrected me and asked for the date. I had to take a moment to recall the date, but I eventually responded that it was February 24th. He thanked me and then left, bowing politely.

What made this encounter particularly eerie was that earlier that same morning, I had been reading about time travel, mental institutions, viral pandemics, La Jetee, 12 Monkeys, and other related topics. And to add to the strangeness, right after the encounter, or maybe at the same time, I received a text message from a friend who had been in Vegas over the weekend, canceling our meeting scheduled for later that day at 5 pm, saying that he was sick as a dog and joking that he had COVID-19. The coincidence of these events left me feeling bewildered and spooked.

Gilles Deleuze, a French philosopher, proposed three different syntheses of time in his book “Difference and Repetition”. These syntheses are the passive synthesis of the living present, the passive synthesis of the pure past, and the static synthesis of the future.

The passive synthesis of the living present is the synthesis that allows us to perceive the world around us in the present moment. It involves the synthesis of various sensory perceptions, which creates our experience of the present. This synthesis is passive because it happens automatically, without any conscious effort on our part.

The passive synthesis of the pure past, on the other hand, involves the recall of past experiences and memories. This synthesis is also passive, as it happens automatically when we are reminded of past experiences. However, it differs from the first synthesis in that it is not directly related to the present moment. Instead, it involves a kind of mental time travel, where we relive past experiences in our minds.

Finally, the static synthesis of the future is the synthesis that allows us to imagine and plan for the future. Unlike the other two syntheses, the static synthesis of the future is active, as it requires conscious effort to imagine and plan for future possibilities. It involves the synthesis of various possibilities and choices, which we use to make decisions about the future.

Together, these three syntheses of time show how our perception of time is not just a linear progression of past, present, and future, but rather a complex and dynamic interplay of different temporal modes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *