So now we can travel in time. The images of the telescope make it official James Webb, that erotic display of light that we have seen in the past few weeks. The science, the scale and dimension of the trip amazes; Not so much the question of time, because traveling in time is something that we have been able to do for a long time.
On one occasion I was with a teacher walking at the end of a small pier in a town in the Colombian Caribbean. The place resembled a similar one on the beach in Ponce, a municipality in the south of Puerto Rico that faces the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, always so much more crystalline than the darker blue waters of the Atlantic, facing the which is seen from the north the city of San Juan. Two different shades of water surround the same island, two different rhythms and times cross it from north to south.
On that pier we were a group of just over a dozen students and when we got to the edge of the pier I had to walk next to the teacher. He wanted to propose an interesting, profound reflection, I don’t know, he wanted to appear worthy of being there. So, I told him one of those adolescents that one still says in her twenties: “This place feels like being at the end of the world.” I write it and the mixture of shame, tenderness and modesty that I feel for the young woman that I was overwhelms and pleases me in equal measure. He replied something along these lines: “Yes, the end of the world is everywhere. There are thousands of places that seem like the end of the world, because the world begins and ends everywhere”. Now I think about it and I suspect that he also wanted to sound like a teacher. How much it matters to us to fulfill the assigned role. How much it matters to us to be what corresponds to “our time”.
As if further confirmation were needed, when walking back in the opposite direction to the sea, four or five children of approximately 10 years old emerged from the bottom of the pier. They had been playing there for a while, under our steps, as if they were some kind of mermaids of a time that had long since ended for us, but that was just beginning there. At that dock I understood that traveling through time was a much more everyday experience than inhabiting the present; that place where we are forced to admit that nothing that happens to us is particularly exceptional and that the only special and particular thing we have is the fact that we are not. The present is a plural issue and we are facing a culture that singles out everything.
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That is why it is so difficult to realize that the future imagined —above all— at the end of the last century and the beginning of this one, today is more past than present. Around the world, values have been rearranged, political forces challenge their own definitions, each person lives an intimate loss and in the small republics of the home new constitutions are written that the states cannot cope with understanding. The trumpets of a new apocalypse are already a distant sound, a past that we did not see happen. We are living in a new time, a future that was and to which we will not be able to travel with light. The consolation is knowing that this is the end of a world and every ending brings its purge and, hopefully, some relief or, better yet, silence.
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