OUT OF SYNC: Chronic Illness, Time, and Comics Memoir.

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Author: Jared Gardner
Date: Spring-Summer 2021
From: Biography(Vol. 44, Issue 2-3)
Publisher: University of Hawaii Press
Document Type: Article
Length: 6,706 words
Lexile Measure: 1430L

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Time as we experience it does not hold up to close examination. Philosophers have known this for millennia--giving rise, for example, to the very different accounts of time offered by Parmenides and Heraclitus. For Parmenides, time is an illusion and only the now is real, while for Heraclitus, time is change and only change is real. However, both of these classical accounts were premised on the conviction that time as we experience it simply doesn't compute.

Yet, even as an agreed upon understanding of time continues to elude us, our experience of time--a fixed now from which a past recedes and towards which a never-arriving future approaches--is our one truly shared text, our unifying fiction. We are wired to tell stories, I have come to believe, first and foremost because of our needto network our individual experience of time in shared time--that is, to affirm through narrative the illusion that our relative experience of time is indeed universal, synchronized in the stories we tell. As Paul Ricoeur writes, "time becomes human time to the extent that it is organized after the manner of a narrative; narrative, in turn, is meaningful to the extent that it portrays the features of temporal experience" (3). This is why so many of our definitions of narrative share as common ingredients a sequence of events reported by the narrator and a narratee to whom the story is told. Long before we had our ever more precise technologies to anchor us to the shared time necessary for global capitalism, we had narrative--"the telling of events... such that at least one occurs at a time t and another at a time t1" (145).

Today, of course, we have countless tools and devices to synchronize us firmly to shared time. More than a century after Einstein first spelled out his special theory of relativity, a theory long since proved by those same devices that function in our daily lives to affirm its opposite, our globally networked screens have us all the more synchronized to clocktime. We know theoretically that time is relative, bound to space and thus necessarily different for each of us, but we are forced to live time--more than ever--as universal and moving irrevocably forward, demanding that we keep up.

Until, of course, we can't. We fall out of clocktime regularly in our daily lives: a daydream, an experience of deja vu. For these minor skips and dropouts, the proliferating devices to which we are tethered quickly get us back in sync, on task, "connected." But we all also fall out of sync with clocktime in more challenging ways: a cold, a flu, a cycle of depression, any one of the infinite maladies to which our bodies and minds are always vulnerable. Although the experience of illness is universal--as Susan Sontag says, we all hold "dual citizenship" in the kingdoms of the sick and the well--there is only one kingdom to which we truly swear allegiance, precisely because only one kingdom confers recognizable benefits on its...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A707075968