VIEWSnTRANSCENDENT MEMORY by Anthony HanigannThe significance of the past—the past of a minute or annhour ago, 100 years ago, or 5,000 years ago—is ofnconsuming interest to me; many writers are concerned withnthe effects of time on people and institutions. The pastnprovides writers with most of their raw material. Proust hadnonly to taste a sweet, and the world of the past flooded hisnmind with recollections. 1 am intrigued with the nature andnoperation of time. How do we get from here to there? Howndid we get from there to here?nMovement through time is complex and often bewildering.nWe are very different at various ages because of thenpassage of time. We identify blocks of time in our life or innhistorical existence. We recall in vivid detail scenes fromnour childhood or young adulthood. We remember crisesnand struggles, traumas, and placid stretches of life. Somethingnthat happened to us at age 10 or 25 strikes us as real asnwhat happens to us today. We go back into time and,nremembering, feel as we felt earlier in our existence. Wenalso may be sensitive to the time in which our parents ornancestors lived. We may, in our mind, recreate moments ornentire periods of their existence. If we are students ofnhistory, we may come to believe that we understand andistant era so well that it is real to us. Standing alongside thencolumns of the Temple at Sounion, I once felt transportednto the days of the ancient Greeks who voyaged over thenwine-dark sea.nBut what of the actual process of time, the ticking away ofnhours and years? Do we sense that at all? An anonymousncontributor to The New Yorker discussed that in an extraordinarilynperceptive way some time back. She described anstay in the countryside, while awaiting the birth of hernchild. “One evening,” she wrote, “in a jungly place nearnthe beach I heard a woodpecker rapping a tree: rat-a-tat.nThat was the present, and gone forever as soon as it wasndone.” She said she was listening to time. She wrote of thenvarious rhythms all around her—and us. There were, shensaid, old-time sounds—the Angelus ringing in a churchnacross the field, a train whistie, a faraway barking dog.nThese sounds clashed with another contemporary tempo.nThere was, she noted, “changiness in a place that wasncountry and is slowly becoming a kind of city.” There wasnthe growl of tractors and other earth-moving machinery, ofncarpenters building new structures. “I listened,” she wrote,n”for the tempi of my parents’, my grandparents’, my greatnAnthony Harrigan is president of the U.S. Business andnIndustrial Council.ngrandparents’ lives, each tempo unfolding like a separatengesture within the historical tempo of this place where all ofnus had lived.” She also tried to listen for the tempi of historynin a broader sense.nI suspect we would profit from listening to time; listeningnbrings understanding. I am especially interested in what wenhear when there aren’t any contemporary sounds in the air,nas often happens at the village of Sewanee, Tennessee,nwhere I live. What do we hear in a truly quiet place? Do wenhear time passing? Is time real in a truly quiet place?nSometimes 1 ask myself, in my small and very quietncommunity, what happened to the small and quiet world ofn100 years ago? Where is the world of Sewanee that existednin 1885? Has it truly vanished, or do we simply not see it? Inasked the same question when 1 visited Carnac, France, innthe dead of winter, and saw the miles-long stone avenuesnerected by an unknown people, 5,000 years ago. I wondered:nCould 1 hear anything in that winter silence? Is thenworld of our early European ancestors truly lost there, or atnStonehenge or similar sites? Can we hear or discernnnnJULY 1987/11n