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Interpretation of “Out of space and time” by Alkinoos Ioannidis

For this entry, I have picked Out of space and time (Εκτός τόπου και χρόνου) by Alkinoos Ioannidis (Αλκίνοος Ιωαννίδης): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BkCNgAn41A.

It is a slow-paced song with profound lyrics. I have covered Alkinoos once before in my Interpretation of “Mirror”, which was the first entry in this series starting on 2022-06-28.

Below are the lyrics, my translation of them, and some philosophical thoughts.

Εκτός τόπου και χρόνου

Μοιάζει να ξεγλιστρά ο καιρός, μα δε με νοιάζει
Γίνεται στάχτη και καπνός, νερό που στάζει
Στις χαραμάδες του μυαλού, γλιστρά και φεύγει
Μα η αλήθεια είναι αλλού, σαν άστρο φέγγει
Σαν άστρο φέγγει

Εκτός τόπου και χρόνου να ζήσω μια φορά
Σαν ρόδα που κυλά στην άκρη εκεί του δρόμου
Με τίποτα δικό μου με πόδια δανεικά
Να κάνω το γύρω όλου του κόσμου

Μοιάζει να κυβερνά ο καημός, μα δε με νοιάζει
Έχει βαθύτερο σκοπό, και ας με πειράζει
Κι είναι ο σκοπός λυπητερός, και τραγουδάει
Γίνετε ύμνος γιορτινός, κι όλο γελάει
Κι όλο γελάει

Εκτός τόπου και χρόνου να ζήσω μια φορά
Σαν ρόδα που κυλά στην άκρη εκεί του δρόμου
Με τίποτα δικό μου με πόδια δανεικά
Να κάνω μια φορά το γύρο όλου του κόσμου
Out of space and time

It seems like time is slipping away, but I don't care
It turns into ash and smoke, water that drips
It falls through the mind's cracks and flees
Yet truth is elsehwere, like a star it shines
Like a star it shines

Out of space and time, to live once
Like a wheel that turns there by the side of the road
With nothing of my own, with borrowed feet
To once tour the whole world

It seems that sorrow rules, but I don't care
It has a deeper purpose, although it disturbs me
And if it's a sad tune, and it sings
It becomes a festive hymn, and always laughs
And always laughs

Out of space and time, to live once
Like a wheel that turns there by the side of the road
With nothing of my own, with borrowed feet
To once tour the whole world

We cannot literally live out of space and time. Our presence is temporal and spatial. We are transient and occupy a certain locus. Does Alkinoos speak nonsense, then? No, for we can develop a mindset of being focused on the here-and-now, which makes everything else irrelevant to our considerations.

While “here” and “now” are spatiotemporal magnitudes, the habit of operating within them allows us to escape from the thoughts about time and the particularities of the place. We stop being driven by the fear of time running out. We no longer have grand plans for the future upon which our whole world depends on. We acknowledge that things are not truly ours and contingent on our volition. We are a coincidence.

[ Read/watch: On insecurity, confidence, and aloofness, which is actually about non-disturbance and non-ownership. ]

In the present, we find the truth of the actual, of that which is, not has been, not will be. This truth is pertinent to the here-and-now. It is all that matters. Whether it will continue to be true in a different combination of space and time is of no concern to us: it is not for the present.

This is not about universal constants, but the attitude we have towards things. It concerns our experience. How absorbed we are in the illusion of permanence, of everything remaining the way we know it and want it to be. The belief in permanence underpins another illusion: that of ownership. We are invested in something or someone in a possessive sense of thinking of their presence as inalienable from our own. In actuality, there is impermanence and non-ownership. Everything is transfigurable.

[ Read/watch: Who can be a philosopher ]

Perhaps this is all too abstract, so let me couch it in terms of quotidian matters. Suppose you love someone and want to marry them. Perhaps you already did. Marriage is a long-term commitment. You are sure about your feelings for that person and are happy to stay with them. All good! Though you don’t love that person in the future: you love them now. There is no future in this experience. It is always a “now”, a “right here”, a “face-to-face”…

While the convention of marriage is a claim on a state of affairs yet-to-be, we don’t really know about it. You can say that you will love someone twenty years from now, though you cannot tell whether the preconditions for the expression of such an emotion will hold. You walk outside and get hit by a bus. There goes your illusion of owning the future: “your” future.

Our understanding of space and time in human relations is conventional. It is how everything works and that’s okay. We need such a shared belief to operate in practice. The mystical insight here is to not mistake conventions for universal constants. Such conflation will trouble us, undermine our stability, and jeopardise our condition. We will be labouring under falsehoods and keep making the wrong decisions. Then, when the truth of impermanence eventually hits us, we will feel devastated, empty, dead inside.

Returning to the lyrics of the song, we want to behave as if space and time do not exist, with our undivided attention on the present. We admit to have nothing of our own as we acknowledge non-ownership (check the link above for more on this matter). We shall then tour the whole world because our commitment to the present frees us from the concern of the locus: we shift from the place to the space. We live thus “once”, as we can keep doing it: there is no point in trying it “twice”.

And if you wish you just had that one thing you so desired; that which always eluded you; that which you were unfortunate to not have; that which is so close yet unattainable; that which saddens you; that which makes you wish you were somebody else; that which makes you hate who you are… Well, nothing is ever yours, my dear. Neither sadness nor hatred will change this fact.