No Runtime


What we think of as the present, is no more than that: a thought, an idea; or a formless, timeless, undefinable, unfixed, unfilled state of in-betweenness. A point of transition. A flick-switch between past and future.

It may seem like a small movie—each spectral frame a memory from the immediate past or an imagining for the immediate future, providing an illusion of sequential time passing, but the present has no start, no finish, no runtime. The runtime version of the present is an imaginary construction; a narrative, because memory is a narrative — a visit to the past through imagination — not a recording, not a movie.

The present contains no story. Nothing happens in the present because there is no ‘in’. The present can only be inadequately placed through stories that will never fit: the present is me pouring a cup of tea: the present is a glimpse of a red letterbox as I turn a corner in the street. All of these perceptions of the present are really constructions through which the instant of the present has been extended by adding a past and future to either side of the point of transition.

As elusive as the present may be, there are instances when this point of unfilled in-betweenness may be experienced in itself — or for itself. Suddenly you’re not looking at the movie. You’re inside the experience and outside time. The present is still a point of transition —no longer, however, between past and future, but between a viewer and an image, a listener and a piece of music, a stroller and a landscape, a reader and a text.

A haiku can do this: pluck the reader from the flow of time and dissolve this narrative view of the present. This is a point of stillness where past and future fall away, narrative time disappears, the reader and the words vanish, and there is only the present — an in-between place of absolute nowness.



Picture: If We Never Meet Again,
Two channel video, Noam Toran, (2010).

No Runtime is taken from Undefinable Places In-between — a series of short essays I have written and continue to write under that title.