Permanence is an illusion.


Carlos Nicanor

Art blogger Krisi Metzen recently shared her discovery of an impressive artist named Carlos Nicanor. His art explores the interplay of the temporal and the permanent. He makes solid things appear liquid. It got me thinking.

I work in an auto shop. I was changing oil recently and as I watched the glistening amber liquid pouring into the reservoir, I thought about the way the oil took that certain spout shape for the brief time it was pouring. We consider a river to be a specific thing, but like that oil spout, a river is only a shape that a substance assumes for a time.

In fact, everything is.

Once I was reading outside and I paused to think, looking up. I realized that if I was patient, I could tell that those high, wispy cirrus clouds that usually don’t seem to be moving were drifting and changing shape before my eyes. You know that all clouds are always moving, but it’s something different to actually see the motion of something that you normally perceive as stationary.

One morning I watched a sunrise. There were some telephone lines hanging high above and in front of me, and I moved to just the right spot and sat very still. I watched the planet Venus get closer and closer to one thin wire, briefly pass behind it, and emerge from the other side. It’s awesome to realize you can perceive the spinning of the globe you’re sitting on.

Everything we normally think of as permanent, like the shape of the continents or appearance of species, is only a snapshot of an ongoing process of change.

The way we normally perceive time isn’t the only way to perceive it. Like I said before: Your pet, and most other animals, perceive time very differently than you do.


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