The issue of time is closely linked to a Eurocentric way of thinking. We are bound by the fact that time passes and has meaning. And so, the past takes us to one place, the present to another, and the future is a precise outcome. Which leads us to mathematics. Everything is a matter of ordinary, direct calculation. If you do something, the outcome will be directly linked to everything that you did.
This math—once again, Eurocentric—doesn’t make sense to all bodies. Often, for some, and not just a few, the action of the present, in relation to knowledge of the past, doesn’t lead to a specific or planned future. The future itself may not even exist as something to be lived.
But we always have this idea of precision. So let’s take a look at mathematics. It’s simple, nothing that can’t be absorbed. Between zero and one we have a lot of numbers, an infinity of numbers. I remember my father—a mathematician, by the way (this biographical detail is valid, since I’m writing about time)—telling thousands of stories about the universes of numbers that exist between zero and one. And fractions, divisions, and sections were brought into my life. I heard about how everything was just a matter of observation: looking at the zero and at the one.
One big question was understanding if the numbers that existed between the zero and the one were lesser numbers than the more famous ones we already know. Absolutely not! Fractions of numbers are just as important as they are, and actually, if we didn’t think about them, the whole numbers wouldn’t make sense. You just have to pay attention. Which led me to an exercise of giving less importance to whole numbers, to their simplicity, incomparable to the sophistication of 0.1, 0.6, 0.111, or even 0.1111118 and on and on.
Curves in Straight Thinking
All this complexity gave a sensuality to the numbers, new tones, sounds, and curves to the straight thinking that immediately after zero would come one. And so, I continued to pay attention, but my eyes and thinking couldn’t keep going in a straight line. And that was when the curve set in. And in that curve, more doubts. And with those doubts, more questions. There are so many questions—it’s only when we stop worrying about the answers that we can move forward.
But what about sequence? One number after another, this ordering of numbers? The proximity between the numbers is as great as their distance. And here we think about the future. How can we think about the sequence if each part contains all the strength of what’s behind it and ahead of it, within itself. Every minute counts, every second counts. So, are we denying the importance of the future? Absolutely. And all this in the thinking of someone who doesn’t relate to mathematics as a field to be unraveled, but as a truth you swallow up and learn to have a little logic in life. But what about this logic, does it dance inside someone with a mind like mine?
A Future That Dances
The future here resides in each moment, not as an expectation, but from our attention. Paying attention to this horizon one might call the future. The horizon is a curve, not just something else to be reached. And here, our attention is not just in our eyes, it arrives at all our senses and moves us. And it’s nice to think about a future that dances. Shall we dance? It’s all a matter of time and attention.
In the end, zero never wanted to be one, much less the entire infinity contained between them (and I’ll confess I never found the number one to be much fun). The existence of oneness denies us a future. The perception of multiplicity within the same context brings us truths. Singularity is a violent exercise.
Keyna Eleison is a curator, with a bachelor’s in philosophy and a master’s in art history. A storyteller, singer, and ancestral chronicler, she specializes in art education, storytelling, oral knowledge harvesting, Griot and shamanic heritage. She is the artistic director of the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro.
Translaion Zoë Perry