The texture of time and disposition

We use the phrase Tincture of time to express the understanding that, whether insults be physical or emotional, they always get at least a little better, with time. The title of this post is different, for it reads Texture of time. Objects in three-dimensional space can be textured. All one has to do is look at these weathered shutters hanging on an old brick farmstead to know that it is so. It’s the fourth dimension, time, that I’ve been wondering about the last day or so. Does it have a texture too? Time certainly leaves its textured mark on physical objects. Mortar dries and cracks. Cracks allow water in, water freezes, expands, and fissures become holes. This takes time and the holes may therefore represent one of the many manifestations of time. There is no doubt that time leaves its mark on the human visage, a fact of which I am reminded each time I am presented with a mirror. I wonder if personal history, as it is expressed as personality, has texture as well? If time has been good to us, then its influence may manifest in a good outlook and a positive disposition. If we have been unlucky, and time has not been kind to us, perhaps the result is a more negative view of ourselves and of our situation. Might it be that, as we navigate the future, the ways in which we do so are influenced by the texture of our personality? It seems reasonable, I suppose, that history forcefully and irreversibly determines who we are. But, I wonder, is there no role to be played by our genes? May we be predisposed to responding to life’s exigencies in a positive way if we possess alleles which code for positive outlook and disposition? Other allelic forms may predispose us to assuming a more negative view of things. If outlook is genetic, I wonder whether or not we can rise above this predisposition, if it is negative, and see the bright side? I like to think that we may. I also like to think of the way in which we view ourselves, others, and the world within which we live, as an ever-changing amalgam of genetic expression and historical influence.


33 thoughts on “The texture of time and disposition

  1. I love the question of whether time has texture! I guess change certainly does … it’s almost the very definition. If something is homogenous and smooth, there is no change in its texture. I guess that doesn’t hold if you think about friction though … with time, movement and change, a textured surface can become smooth.

    As for optimism versus pessimism, at this point in my life (and my attitude may change someday) it seems to me that people are born with a tendency to think one way or the other, but that if we are self-aware enough, can encourage our thoughts the another direction … something that can become a habit over time. Still working on that one though!

    • Absolutely. Encouraging one’s thoughts in other directions is something which has been very difficult for me, and something which is becoming more and more difficult with time for some unexplained reason. Thanks for checking in.

      • I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. Maybe when you’re younger, you should change the things you can, but as you get older, you can take stock of those things that are resistant to change, and just accept them … revel in them!

  2. Another beautiful image and thoughtful prose to go along it with it! I love the red brick contrasting with the aqua shutters. Old/vintage things are so much more interesting than new and perfect. They have a story to tell and it has to age to gain that story. I think our personalities are definitely genetic but life can certainly mold them. For example, someone may not like to travel but doing so has its prize, like getting to see your child who lives abroad. And if there are photographic opportunities in the bargain, all the more reason to fly!

    • Haha spot on … another example: some might not like to travel, but live abroad anyway! I’m still working on wrapping my head around that one πŸ™‚ But as someone who knows how trying travel can be, I am well-equipped to make sure that fellow anti-travelers are very comfortable and relaxed when they come to visit πŸ™‚

  3. Lovely photograph, and lovely notions about the impact of time on our personalities. I definitely believe you are on to something with that … it was fun to read and think about.

    • Thanks for the vote of approbation. Sometimes, when I’m writing, I think I make no sense to anyone but myself. Sometimes, when I’m writing, I think nothing I say makes any difference to anyone but myself. And, sometimes, when I’m writing, I think nothing I say will cause anyone to pause and to think. I’m glad you thought this post made some sense, a bit of a difference, and was thought-provoking. D

  4. Genetic expression and historic experience is certainly the combination which I feel shapes our textures … our emotional textures. Each experience leaves its impression on our neural networks … and from there we make decisions about the present πŸ™‚ Lovely image, and wonderful wonderings David.

    • Thanks Seonaid. I enjoyed my little foray into complex world of personality. I’m pleased is struck a reasonable chord with someone who really knows about such things. D

  5. What a good and colorful way to convey the effects of time.

    A question that arose for me as soon as I saw all these vines was whether the one with the many little rootlets to the right of the blue shutters is poison ivy: do you happen to know? By coincidence, this is the second time in less than half a day that I’ve encountered the word allele (the first was last night on BookTV in a session with Richard Dawkins). The possibility that the “hairy” vine is poison ivy brought back a question I’ve had about that species for some years now. Poison ivy can grow as an herb, as an upright stalk, as a shrub, and as a vine that climbs with rootlets. My longstanding question is whether an individual poison ivy seed as it begins to grow can take any one of those forms, or whether from the outset a given plant is “destined” to take on one and only one of the possible forms available to the species as a whole.

    • Firsts … I do not know whether the climbing vine is Poison Ivy. [Isn’t it funny that many locals call it Ivy Poison … or just Poison?] And after nearly 33 years of marriage to a PhD in Plant Ecology, a person trained in Systematic Botany, I still cannot visually and reliably distinguish the stuff from other common hedgerow plants. And, I’m very, very allergic! You’d think I would have taken it upon myself to learn! What can I say? With regard to your second question, I believe the answer may be found in the terms ecophenotypic-effects and genomic plasticity. Although I cannot say for sure, my guess is that there are many genes in the Poison Ivy growth repertoire which may be expressed under one or another environmental influence. So, while the plant develops, and under certain environmental cues, one series of genes may be turned on while others remain suppressed. Under some other set of environmental cues another set of structural genes may be turned on while many others are suppressed. So, if the local environment calls for herbaceous habit … the genes expressed as this growth form are turned on (while climbing genes are turned off). In an older plant, growing next to a large tree or dwelling, perhaps the climbing/vine genes are turned on while the genes controlling herbaceous habit are turned off. Realize that all cells which make up the plant have the same DNA. But, the cells in the leaves have leaf cell genes turned on and root cell genes turned off … while cells in the roots behave like root cells because their root cell genes are turned on while their leaf cell genes are turned off. It’s crazy that genes can be regulated in this way. In the same way, consider that your liver behaves like a liver because, deep within it cells, the genes for liver cell function are turned on … while genes for cardiac cell function are turned off. And … your heart behaves appropriately because its component cells are behaving like cardiac cells because their cardiac cell function genes are on while their liver cell function genes are turned off! So, it’s something about immediate chemical environment that can regulate genes. Now, if you and I get put our heads together and figure out how to turn on … and especially off … those genes which regulate cancerous cell growth (Onchogenes), we’d both be very famous indeed. D

  6. Very interesting and thought-provoking. I found the title intuitive – I was not familiar with the phrase ‘Tincture of time’ but ‘texture’ made sense immediately as I associated it with the ‘fabric of 4D spacetime’ and the like.

    As for the role of time, history, and genes I think I have often over-analyzed that. My final and pragmatic conclusion was to look for ‘patterns’ in my life – and just watch them without trying to find out of this is due to your genetic disposition, environmental factors, or magic … (I have recently found this confirmed by Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, and his autobiographical book). It seems to that we are all prone to repeat the same mistakes or the same successes again and again, or take an optimistic or pessimistic stance … due to whatever reason.

    My conclusion was (In case you want to change something): In order to break what sometimes seems to be a self-amplifying circuit you sometimes should first change something in your life fundamentally (the difficult part for me was to find out what means ‘fundamental’ in your particular case), perhaps without having a clearly defined goal, and then check what sort of effect it has. Probably a trick to outsmart your own confirmation bias. Then look what happens, maybe change something again.

    I think an essential aspect is to accept and embrace randomness and its underestimated impact on our lives. We are too quick in coming up with a narrative or a scientific explanation based on cause and effect when we are effectively just a dot in a big sample, acting as dictated by statistics. From pop-psych books and articles I conclude that after sociological explanations have been popular (your history and childhood counts), now genetics has taken over. But all that talk about Big Data, modelling, and so-called unpredictable black swan events finally added probability to the picture.

    • I like your thoughtful comments. From watching shows about biology (like an interview with Richard Dawkins last night), I, too, have gotten the impression that there’s a fad for trying to explain every little thing via genetics. Dawkins, for example, kept talking about what our genes “want.” Might he not have replaced the traditionally assumed cause of everything, God, with an equally volitional and magical one called Gene?

      • Indeed, you make a wonderfully insightful point. I think Dawkins would agree, except that it is the behaviors and habits of genes about which we can formulate, test, and either accept or falsify hypotheses, while we cannot do anything like that for the existence of a supreme being. What sort of experiment could we devise to test for the existence of God? Dawkins would argue that the genetic hypothesis is a scientific one … while the God hypothesis is not (for it cannot be tested). And, let’ face it, Dawkins is a scientist and doesn’t like anything which smacks of faith or belief. He’s a reductionist. A materialistic person of science. D

        • Granted that genetic hypotheses can be put to the test and religious ones can not. Still, in terms of what might be called the meta-science involved here (maybe like metaphysics), some supporters of a genetic explanation for everything seem to have an almost unquestioning acceptance that reminds me of traditional religious fervor and orthodoxy. From reading Stephen Jay Gould last year I came away with the notion that scientists are people, after all, and therefore still have biases that can keep them from the objectivity that the scientific method theoretically calls for.

    • And, in the final analysis, you are probably correct in pointing out that the millions of contingencies in our lives, the chaotic effects, the random movements, and stochastic events are what really determine our ultimate outcomes.

      There is a wonderful analogy which is called something like replaying the tape of life. Imagine you were to rewind your life all the way back to the day of your birth … and then your life unfolded once again. The question is, would your life be the same or different the second time around? I agree with Gould’s analysis which is that because of limiting constraints … there will be some degree of predictability to this ‘second life.’ Also, however, because the contingent nature of almost all the events of our lives … your ‘second life’ will be very different in its fine details. So much to consider and think about! Thanks for your thoughtful response this morning. Such attentions are always appreciated. D

  7. That’s an interesting thought you’ve floated there (along with an equally interesting image to go with it). You’ve made me reflect on the simple fact that any set of memories I have carry with them a blend of emotions and a stained glass frame through which I view them. Perhaps that is the texture of which you speak, at least as my brain represents it.

    • Thanks Charlie, all observations are very much appreciated, especially positive ones. We’re pretty dull and gloomy today, so your designation of two-thumbs-up added a bit of sunshine. D

  8. I really enjoy the colors as well as the textures. Your comment thread is as interesting and educating to read as the post itself, I feel the entirety is so thought provoking and inspiring. Art, philosophy and science in conjunction with stunning photography – time well spent, thank you!

  9. For something that may not exist, time plays such a real and intense role in our lives, personality, well being and development. Despite old saws, it does not heal all wounds, there is no guarantee that things get better as it passes or that it will tell. But the lines in my face are evidence of the texture of time as the experience of age takes a toll on us all….for better or worse.

    I really like the effect of the vines hanging over the faded color of the painted door with the coarse brick framing.

    • True reflections … thanks. I’m glad you liked the image. It was taken on a fairly dull day but, Lightroom to the rescue, I was able to bring out both shadows and color. What would we do without Adobe? I suppose the answer to that question is that we’d have some fairly nice, but dull, images. D

  10. It’s amazing how consistently you manage to tailor the text to your wonderful photographic images. You never fail to read deeply and in a significant way beyond what is visible to the eye.You have become quite a creative philosopher and your musings give much food for thought. What you say here is tantalizing and very interesting, indeed.

  11. Timely musings, as they are the focus of my work today. I am beginning to think most of us – if fortunate enough to have healthy brains – can adapt to what life sends our way … in short, time may not have been good to us, but we can still find value in our experiences, and thus create a positive outlook. We may not begin happy, but we can cultivate an outlook that allows us to be happy despite external circumstances. That said, I’ve also come to recognize a consensus in current writing, that changing how we think is more difficult if the brain has been harmed in some way, perhaps through genetics, chemical substances, illness or physical trauma, or the combination of these. In this case, we hope that psychology or psychiatry can offer help. The brain is amazingly resilient.

    PS: I love how this door steps off into nowhere – another attribute of the photo that suits the text of the post.

    • Thanks M. What you say makes all kinds of sense. We are indeed resilient, and usually able to rise above it all. I thought about presenting this as a simple nature/nurture issue but then realized that it is more than that because of the way in which experience can influence the ways in which we see, and respond to, the world around us. So, maybe it’s more of a nature + experience/nurture issue. We must cultivate a good outlook if we are not naturally predisposed to adopting one. That can be difficult at times, to be sure. But all things worth having are worth working toward – right? D

      • It might be fair to say that we are nurturing ourselves … such an empowering choice! I think it can overcome loads of crap that we encounter. I think you once reminded me that manure can make fertile soil.

Respond to this post if you'd like.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: