My current research on time and temporality has me reflecting back on those years and those spaces now...I grew up in a land of shopping malls. They were our transport hubs, communities, dentists and hairdressers, first dates and last strolls with an aging grandparent; site of traumatic adolescent initiations, first acid trips, gang rivalries, birthday celebrations and streaks of blood on the cracked glass from the most recent stabbing of a young man who had to save face and couldn't back down.
Most of all, the mall was timeless. Entering it's belly was to enter another world where time both stood still and yet compelled you to keep moving; to keep shifting and scurrying from one wing to the opposite; in search of something that always eluded you; a soul-mate in the crowd, the most perfect skirt, the book that would change your life, the next fix of adrenaline and distraction; more fries, more pizza, more soda, more conversation, more gossip.
I read somewhere that the lighting for shopping malls was calibrated to the frequencies and intensity of late afternoon sun; a softening haze that was neither full afternoon sun nor the hushing blanket of dusk; an in-between time that captured those few minutes of circadian transition and stretched them out into an eternity of approaching yet never arriving evening; holding back the darkness, extending the day and promising us immortality and a few more perfect moments if we were willing to pay for it in treasure and aching legs and groaning backs. I'm reminded of what that time of day means for Mediterranean cultures like Greece, Italy and Spain; the hour when the village dwellers and shopkeepers stir from their afternoon siesta and re-emerge from their mini-hibernation. The shops come back to life, the fruit stands chirp with excitement, cafes and bars fill up with bodies and chatter and a glass of wine to lubricate the social ties that bind and comfort. The sun's blinding rays have been survived for yet another day, and the cool blessing of a soft evening breeze is the reward for being a human with senses too-intense for this world. Aristotle and Plato would stroll around the lush garden grounds of the Academy and the Lycium at this time of day, instructing their pupils on the righteousness of a life dedicated to the philosophic arts, wondering at the mysteries of nature and longing to penetrate these mysteries through systematic analysis and the illuminating torch of the rational mind.
The Aztec empire would hold their New Fire Ceremony every 52 years; their sacred flame of cosmic renewal born in the chest cavity of a captured enemy warrior who had just had his heart cut out from him, high above Tenochitlan/Mexico City on Huixachtlan mountain. The Orthodox Christian religion celebrates the Ceremony of the Holy Fire in the darkness preceding Easter Sunday. The single sacred flame that is spread from candle to candle symbolizes the light emanating from Christ's tomb, signifying his emergent resurrection and revelation and the resetting of cosmic time to which our calendar still today takes its bearings.
Bleep! Bleep! Bleep! Bleep!
Time had caught up with us. The mall lights were dimmed, and the cleaning staff were middle-aged anonymous faces with long foreign-sounding names who pretended we weren't there, and we did them the same courtesy. We were intruders in this nocturnal world of otherness and stillness; day-dwellers who felt out of place and out of time, awaiting the conclusion of our ritual cosmogenesis and the longing to be released from this underworld of darkness and mystery.