Saturday, 10 October 2009


Some were going up, some going down. Lifts is it? Elevators? Yes, lifts, elevators. Some up, some down; that is at the one moment, or sequence of moments rather, some would be going up, some going down. (Depending a little on the latitude we allow ourselves with that curious notion of "a moment", if we agree, controversially admittedly, to confine that word to mean a frozen instant, as in a photograph, then naturally none of these lifts would be going anywhere; they would be entirely static, frozen within that frozen moment.)

Each lift would of course vary in its direction, for a lift that merely went one way along the vertical route would quickly be rendered useless, coming to the bottom or top of the shaft and then lying there, endlessly. You could I suppose then have the employment of a subsequent lift coming down the shaft, but soon that would come to lie atop the previous, and so on until the elevator shaft is full of elevators atop each other, gridlocked; that is that that is how things would have to progress apart from a scenario of an infinite shaft, where up or down the shaft never ends and so the lift could traverse it forever, never reaching an end, there being no end to reach. But whoever heard of such a shaft? Until now probably noone.

And so given the likelihood that this was not the case here either - not that it should be entirely dismissed - then we can more than likely assume that each particular lift would sometimes be travelling downwards, sometimes upwards, but not of course in both directions simultaneously. Perhaps if you employed a mirror you could fool yourself - one eye on the mirror, one on the lift - into thinking that the lift is travelling in both directions simultaneously, but that illusion could hardly go on for long, and whether you could consciously, premeditatedly fool yourself like that is questionable. Questionable, yes, but you could perhaps fool someone else with your mirror, but again not for long if at all.

Are the lifts constantly in motion? Of course not. What kind of lift would that be? It stops at floors, lets people in or out. That's all we see of them, floors and people - that is if we limit our vision to the innards of the lift, which for now we will. It may be restricting, this limiting, but from the point of view of actually being in this lift it's most realistic. So a numbered button lights up, a stop, the door opens, someone or ones enter, presses a button, timidly perhaps - for it is hard to be at one's best when entering an already peopled lift, not to say it must be peopled - the door slides closed, and the lift moves off, or at least offers the impression of movement.

Impression? You could argue, from within the confines of this lift and the occasional vistas offered by its opening door, that it is not the lift that is moving in relation to everything else, but everything else in relation to it - everything else being the building housing the lift. Naturally the common, sane view is that it is everything else that tends to be stationary while it is the lift that is doing all the moving, but from the perspective of within the lift there is no proof of all this moving, merely a humming indicative of this moving and the opening of the door revealing a different vista than greeted one when it perhaps last opened. You were elsewhere, you're now here. How did you get here from there but by moving?

But it could just as easily - well no, not just as easily, but easiness is no barometer of truth - but it could be that it is the lift that is stationary, and the movement is the building in relation to it rather than it in the relation to the building - the other way round in other words. While you thought you were going up it was really the building that was going down, and contrarily likewise for when you thought you were going down. All very elaborate and bizarre but not wholly unlikely. Well no, again it is wholly unlikely but not entirely beyond sensible conjecture. And while we're on the subject of conjecture, it could even be argued that there is no movement at all - not of lift or building. What am I on about now? So you're in the lift - we'll assume for some reason you're a permanent fixture. You even have your meals in there if you want to know. You're in the lift, and all this sense and evidence of movement is all illusion, or not exactly illusion in the sense of the changing vistas greeting the opening of the door but an extraordinary performance, all for purposes of deception - deceiving the permanent point of perspective within the lift, which we've decided is your ongoing life.

So to begin to clarify, there is movement of sorts but not of lift or building. Both remain unmoved. So how to compare? Well, to a theatre with changing sets between scenes. We'll say there are ten floors; floor eight is the due destination, the door opens, there is or might be someone in the foreground getting in or perhaps someone within getting out, and in the background is the rest of floor eight with its various inhabitants engaged in whatever. And so the door closes and now we are heading for floor five, that is from within the lift there is the impression of moving down to floor five, the machinery of the lift is humming and there is perhaps a light queasiness in the stomach of a sensitive traveller. But hidden from the enclosed view is the most frantic activity. The inhabitants of floor eight rush for the exits, a button is pressed and some well-oiled mechanism kicks in and 'floor eight' disappears from view, upwards or downwards it matters not, and in tandem with the departure of floor eight is the emergence of floor five - whoever is responsible for this mechanism is a real artist - and from the exits rush the 'inhabitants' of floor five and take up their positions in readiness for the opening door. The lift door opens, and there just as it should be and in the most banal manner lies floor five. And soon enough you're innocently off somewhere else. And so on and on this frantic performance goes, and why? For the sake of deceiving the inhabitant of this lift as to the illusion of movement of him and his lift? It appears so. But why should that be of such interest?

Though it should, now that I think of it, be remembered that this was all a matter of conjecture in the first place; that is of the possibility of the non-movement of the lift in relation to its surrounds, and so perhaps one shouldn't get too carried away with an all too earnest conjecturing as to the why behind what is most likely itself pure conjecture. Which is not, on the other hand, to rule out this conjecture, and the least one could do having conjectured it is to treat it as the reasonable conjecture it, like any conjecture, attempts to be.

And so why? Why all this effort to fool some permanent inhabitant or point of perspective within the lift as to movement of it in relation to surrounds. I have no idea. There must be some reason presumably, and a good one it must be, or rather felt to be, to call into being all of this, and while, yes, the reason itself may be mad - and it would be hard to envisage otherwise - still it would have to be admitted that the method is exemplary.

Though I seem to remember at the beginning of this piece talking of a panorama where is seen a number of lifts, some ascending, some descending; and so, our vision then at least not constrained within the confines of a lift, there was no induced illusion of movement but instead actual movement, and so all this notioning of absence of movement is superfluous. Yes, but that was then, this was later on - I mean the confinement of perspective from within a particular lift. Perhaps the two scenes were unconnected, and even if they were, connected that is, this wider view was altogether unknown to the inhabitant of the particular lift and so of no use to him - or her, as I was, I think, describing this him or her merely as you - and so naturally the gender of this you is entirely dependent on you. I'm not going to go dictatorially demanding you be male, or female. One should always recognise one's limits, not that one should be obsessed with this recognising of limits. Most of the time it would probably turn out to be the imposing of limits rather than the recognising of them you'd be doing.

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