This is perhaps one of the more interesting lines of dialogue in Wagner's Parsifal. Occuring in Act 1 of the opera, it is spoken by Gurnemanz, a knight of the holy grail, as Parsifal himself observes that he hardly moves, and yet has already come so far.

Since I encountered the phrase a few years ago, I've been quite intrigued by the idea and all that might be held within that almost aphoristic statement. Perhaps it is the nature of mythology itself which is here being disclosed to us, a time-less realm of mythic archetypes existing in a sort of sacred space. The very idea of a space without time, of a time represented spatially - geometrically - recalls some of the highest human insights, and not merely those of mystics and shamans, who have spoken (in non-scientific terms) of such experiences for millenia.

    "It is no longer possible to divide the four-dimensional continuum objectively in intersections that separately contains simultaneous events. The concept of 'now' loses its objective meaning for the spacially extended world. It is in this connection one has to see space and time as an objectively undividable four-dimensional continuum."
    -- Albert Einstein: Über die spezielle und die allgemeine Relativitätstheorie

But where, indeed, does time become space? It seems nearly impossible for the human mind to conceive of a space separate from time - indeed, time insidiously winds its way into our existence whether or not we desire it to do so. The arrow of time would seem to establish an inherent entropy of the physical universe which would render it not unlike a timepiece, wound at the beginning of the universe and left to run itself out into eventual dysfunction, decadence, and chaos. Time, the death which lurks spectre-like around the barrier of our perception, bringing to ruin and corrupting the material universe with every passing moment, appears invincible.

There is only one theoretical object in the universe where the reign of time's seeming omnipotence is broken: at the distance from a singularity corresponding to the event horizon of a black hole. The postulated hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy is described by some as the Holy Grail of astrophysics.

Fulvio Melia, an X-ray astronomer at the University of Arizona in Tucson, in reference to the discovery of a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy - within the constellation Sagittarius - offered these rather revealing comments:

    "(The event horizon) separates our Universe from another world.
    Some say that when you cross the event horizon,
    time becomes space and space becomes time."

... Shades of Parsifal!

Indeed, Stephen Hawking gives a very coherent exposition of what it is believed happens beyond the event horizon, where the whole of time, past, present and future, is witnessed. Of course, the fact that the observer is crushed by unimaginable forces before he'd even get close to the "object" is at present a rather major limitation on ever personally confirming his theory:

    "In real time, an astronaut who fell into a black hole would come to a sticky end. He would be torn apart by the difference between the gravitational force on his head and his feet. Even the particles that made up his body would not survive. Their histories, in real time, would come to an end in a singularity."
    -- Stephen Hawking, Quest for a Theory of Everything

Space under these extreme conditions simply doesn't seem very amiable to matter, much less to human life.


for further reference:

  • http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/astronomy/our_black_hole_000920.html
  • http://www.nature.com/nsu/010906/010906-10.html
  • VALIS

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