The lines that bind a story to its comprehension.
We are immersed in a strange, elusive fluid called time: the place where all things come to pass, where stories commence, develop and terminate.
Yet stories require time for another reason:
to be told and understood.
Before unravelling themselves and becoming persuasive some stories need time: for example, the timescale of an idea, a religion or a science.
Other stories require much less time: anyone, for example, who has told a tale to an infant, can never forget that final triumphal look announcing “Now I understand”.
Time is the stuff of stories. First and foremost comes the storyline, and then the temporal setting.
Moreover, time is needed before a story can exercise its effect on us.
Fortunately in order for us to extricate ourselves from these situations we possess an extremely useful tool: the timeline.
Try to imagine the succession of moments of a story as an apparently natural line: the timeline can magnify the innate human predisposition and offers us a kind of cartography of time.
Timeline is a way to represent a series of facts (events or processes) graphically and chronologically according to an infinitely changeable scale.
Just think of the difference between the timeline of the life’s evolution on Earth and the timeline of the chemical reactions that lead up to an explosion.
In our times, timelines can be digital, interactive, hyper textual, and infinitely exploratory but they originate in an age-old attempt to make sense of apparently unrelated data in the mysterious sea of time.
Today, organizations and companies often commission and use timelines to provide a calculated and accessible narrative to enrich the present by enhancing the past.
At the beginning of the fifth century the philosopher Augustine of Hippo, that history with the capital H, refers to as Saint Augustus, wrote: “Time does not exist. It is merely a dimension of the soul. The past having lapsed no longer exists; the future does not exist as it must yet come into being, and the present is only an inexistent instant separating the past from the future”.
At this point, who of us would not be in need of help?