Excerpted from Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson ©2011:

Like most people I lived for a long time with my mother and father… that’s how Oranges begins, and it ends with the young woman, let’s call her Jeanette, returning home to find things much the same– a new electronic organ to add a bit of bass and percussion to the Christmas carols, but otherwise, it’s life as it ever was– the giant figure of the mother stooped inside the cramped house, filling it with Royal Albert and electrical goods, totting up the church accounts in a double ledger, smoking into the night underneath a haze of fly spray, her fags hidden in a box marked RUBBER BANDS.

Like most people, when I look back, the family house is held in time, or rather it is now outside of time, because it exists so clearly and it does not change, and it can only be entered through a door in the mind.

I like it that pre-industrial societies, and religious cultures still, now, distinguish between two kinds of time– linear time, that is also cyclical because history repeats itself, even as it seems to progress, and real time, which is not subject to the clock or the calendar, and is where the soul used to live.  This real time is reversible and redeemable.  It is why, in religious rites of all kinds, something that happened once is re-enacted– Passover, Christmas, Easter, or, in the pagan record, Midsummer and the dying of the god.  As we participate in the ritual, we step outside of linear time and enter real time.

Time is only truly locked when we live in a mechanised world.  Then we turn into clock-watchers and time-servers.  Like the rest of life, time becomes uniform and standardised.


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