Fadó, fadó in a world not unlike our own, a group of people embarked on an amazing journey through the stars.
Our journey, as Homo Sapiens, started approximately 400,000 years ago. Like all stories, there is of course a long history to our arrival at the start of this journey, but this story is about our collective selves and how we have travelled. Before the castles and the aqueducts, before we farmed animals or spliced atoms, our collective protagonist (we) was about to embark upon one of the most astounding journeys ever taken through the stars.
At a running start our adventurers have swept around the sun 400,000 times, and the vast Milky Way (that the sun is a small part of) has travelled around 16% of the way around the centre of the universe, hurtling at an astounding 700,000kmh. It is strange to think of the Concorde breaking the sound barrier at a measly 2,172kmh and that we found this impressive, when people 400,000 years ago were travelling at a far faster speed. That said, something that was built by our busy protagonist that managed to travel faster than the speed of our planet’s rotation is maybe a feat worth praising.
Another feat worth praising is that of space explorers and engineers, who have managed to force themselves outside of the atmosphere of our planet and have survived leaving behind a rock that spins at an astounding 1600kmh (granted, that is slower than a Concorde, but it still begs the question of how can we survive such a massive shift in speed). And yet all of this seems somehow insignificant when placed alongside the idea that time, as we choose to understand it, is relative to what we observe. Without all of this movement we would not observe time.
Our adventurers have only recently (in terms of time) come to realise this. Over the last 5,000 years we have developed notions of time that have evolved and changed into our current understanding of relativity. We mapped the stars and charted their movement, and began to understand the passing of seasons and years. Time is connected with space, and both surround us constantly. They are our Oulipian limitations.
There is such a thing as imaginary time, a type of time that is like “negative” time – one that Merlin or Philip K. Dick might understand, but that most of us can only barely comprehend. So aside from spatial journeys (400,000 rotations of the sun), we also have to comprehend the antithesis of this (400,000 backward rotations?) and what that might eventually mean. Time is a measure of movement, and every adventure takes place over time. Our own is no different – we are travelling through time, and are bound by it. Its limitations make our adventure possible. We are accomplished space and time travellers, dedicated explorers that have collectively seen all of the world and all of the night sky and more still.
Like many stories, we will end this one where it began. Fadó is an Irish word that has no direct translation in English (or possibly in any other language). It translates as “a long, long time ago”, and is used as an introduction to stories in the same way as “Once upon a time” or “As it was and ever shall be” can be used to draw a reader in. It is a perfect example of a word that creates a cultural distinction; its meaning is tied to the history of a nation of people who are fixated on history. The past is a long time ago, and our adventure is still taking place, so for an ending we seek only the beginning. Somewhere in the future, perhaps, is the Big Crunch; it is then (if then should ever happen) that time will become negative and all things will swiftly fall back to where they first began. And maybe it has already happened.
Our history on this planet is collective. Fado, fado we knew very little but we explored very far. This is our journey, and so it will always be ar feadh i bhfad.
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