“Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding!” – Immanuel Kant, Konigsberg in Prussia, 30th September, 1784.
Here's an idea. Take all the billions of dollars wasted on sports competitions and donate it to organizations like MDA. This is a real meaningful competition, competing to cure suffering people from terrible diseases. This competition can permeate the mind of America from preschool to post-graduate days and make this country truly the greatest mass of people the world has ever known. And don't give me that trite, selfish, half-baked argument about the equal importance of sports. They pale in comparison. They diminish to nothing in comparison to the true needs in this country and world. It's about time we live up to the greatness we keep saying we embody!
I'm saving this link for future, unhurried development:
Have a Happy Day. Observe the present.
"Newton Abolishes Time"
James H. Bath
“…past, present, and future are only illusions, however persistent.” – Albert Einstein
We have become a species racing the clock. Generation after generation, the race intensifies. Minutes are much more important to us today than they were to our ancestors. Compare the frantic rush now with the slower pace of the 1950’s. Compare it with the still slower pace of the 1850’s, when the chief modes of transport were horse-drawn carriages and promenading down the sidewalk twirling parasols. And compare it with the still slower pace of the birth of civilization along the shores of the Mediterranean, thousands of years ago, when herding livestock, farming, and blacksmithing were main occupations, and time was measured by the slow changing of the seasons, the phases of the moon, and the rising and setting of the sun.
The earliest written calendar we can find dates back more than 20,000 years to the last ice age. It was bone with marks etched into it to record phases of the moon. For a long time, it must have been a useful tool for organizing a tribe’s nomadic life, but a tool that was supplemental and subordinate to actually looking at the moon, the stars and the seasons, as people depended primarily on direct sensual contact with their environment as they hunted, gathered, and migrated.
When agriculture was discovered, civilization developed into larger and more complicated communities. Organization became more crucial. And time became more important. Organization in both time and space became a control tool. Leaders needed to organize things like work periods and lunch breaks, correlating these times to positions of the sun and strokes of the sundial. As the centuries progressed forward and populations grew, reasons were found to increase this organization of people, to control not only their days but also the hours within those days and even the minutes within those hours. Finally, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it seemed brilliant to organize factory workers, office personnel, and other modern workers to the strokes of seconds, with stopwatches.
The body of humanity found itself racing the clock.
This gradual indoctrination into a time-based mindset happened over thousands of years, resulting in what we are now – a stirred ant bed, zipping around frantically, measuring time in ever-smaller intervals of thousandths, millionths, and billionths of seconds.
Few people look at the moon any more to see if a month has passed. Hardly anybody knows where the night sky is, much less how to read its starry patterns. Hardly anybody ever even looks up. Our sensory experience of the world we inhabit has all but atrophied and died.
There are good reasons for coming to a better understanding of time – less stress, less heart attacks, strokes, and other deadly diseases. There are still quite a few people who do not realize that time urgency or “Hurry Sickness”( a term coined back in the 1950s by cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman) has been found to raise blood cholesterol levels and to accelerate blood clotting to dangerous degrees.
Dr. Meyer Friedman, the originator of the term “Type A Behavior”, conducted a study, back in 1957, of forty professional accountants. Friedman and his colleagues checked the cholesterol levels and blood clotting speeds of the accountants, biweekly, through January, February, and March of that year, and found them all to be normal. Their diet and eating habits remained the same throughout these same months. When April rolled around and the tax-filing deadline pressed nearer, the subjects (accountants) started feeling and responding to the pressure to get their clients’ tax forms finished, signed, and in the mail. During this time of increasing hurry, the accountants’ average blood cholesterol level “rose abruptly and their blood began clotting at a dangerously accelerated rate.” Then in May and June, when all the panic to meet the tax deadline was over, the blood cholesterol and clotting times of these forty accountants returned to normal levels.
“For the first time in medical history,” wrote Dr. Friedman, “a clear-cut demonstration of the power of the mind alone to alter man’s blood cholesterol and clotting time had been achieved.”
This is one of the most overlooked and least understood properties of our lives, and one of the most dangerous. And it’s not even clear whether it truly exists or not.
This essay is difficult material to read. The difficulty is not in the language used, for the words are relatively simple and generic. The difficulty is in the pattern of thinking required to grasp the message. This pattern, or structure of thought, shatters contemporary thinking patterns and structures. Therefore, I found it necessary to include a certain amount of redundancy in the text to reinforce key concepts that I wish to express.
To best understand this text and its message, the reader should try to establish and maintain a high, panoramic view of the immerging message while at the same time walk carefully and observantly through the individual details. When working through the details, the concepts put forth may at times seem disjointed and disconnected, even outlandish. But when viewing the whole essay broadly from a panoramic perspective, it will become obvious how all the details come together and present an interesting new view of time.
That said, let’s move forward.
Zeno of Elea, an early Greek philosopher born around 488 B.C., became famous for writing paradoxes that go something like this: Swift Achilles begins a race with the slow tortoise. He gives the tortoise a good lead before he himself even begins the race. He thinks he has plenty of time to overtake the tortoise, then pass him, and win the race. But when Achilles finally begins running, he never overtakes the tortoise because in the time it takes him to reach the tortoise’s position, the tortoise has had that same amount of time to move forward from that position, thus maintaining his lead over Achilles, even though he is moving much slower. And by the time Achilles reaches the new position the tortoise has attained, the tortoise has had that extra amount of time to move forward again to yet a further position. To Achilles’ dumbfounded dismay, every time he reaches the tortoise’s last position, the tortoise has had that same amount of time to move forward yet again, no matter how shrinking the distance separating the two racers becomes. This happens ad infinitum. The tortoise maintains a continually shrinking but persistent lead over his swifter opponent. And therefore, logically, Achilles never overtakes him and loses the race.
With the invention of convergent series summations, higher mathematics was able to simply step over these little excursions into the infinite so that the rest of mathematics agrees with what our senses seem to tell us, that Achilles actually does win the race. But, like it or not, we still have this little plunge through the crack in logic into infinity. We simply ignore it now, cleverly.
Beautiful as the language of mathematics is, it will never fit everything perfectly. Life will forever remain as slippery as an eel. Imagine you can draw the shape of the wind, or lay a mould over the top of the ocean at any given instant in time. The next instant after that, the drawing or the shape of the mold will not match the things they were originally designed to represent. The reason is the wind and ocean continue their constant change of shape; whereas, the drawing and the mold remain static and rigid, like corpses that were once imbued with life which has now moved on and left them behind.
This is why mathematics, and all other theoretical systems, will always only be a subset of infinite reality, and can never represent our world in its entirety. There are many situations in life that seem to defy common sense but cannot be proven wrong logically. I hope the reader bears in mind that some seeming-paradoxes end up not being paradoxes at all but real aspects of our universe waiting for us to acquire enough understanding, or to change our pattern of thinking enough, to incorporate the facts properly into our present way of thinking. Another seeming-paradox might well have gone, millennia ago, something like this: “You say that we should be able to walk in a straight line west and eventually come up onto our very starting point here in the east without altering the direction of our walk at any time. This, Sir, is an absurdity, for surely common sense dictates that you can never get to the East by walking to the West. If nothing else, you will fall off the edge of the world!”
But we now know better. No matter how crazy this idea might have sounded at one time, we now know that we can indeed get to the East by going west, due to the roundness of the world. Bear in mind, also, that a radically new way of thinking had to seep into our collective consciousness for this understanding to take hold.
Take a moment to consider things from a time dimension. If we’re going to determine something or predict something, using the assumed existence of the domino-like actions of cause and effect, the passage of time is implied. First one domino falls, then the next, then another, and another, on and on, in what seems to be a flow of time.
But what if effect does not follow cause, but instead exists right along side it in the same moment of time? If this proves to be true, our concepts of time will need to be seriously questioned. We might find that we need to think of time as more space-like and static – where past, present, and future lie side by side each other, simultaneously – instead of continuously flowing like a river from past, through present, and into future.
In this case, our birth, midlife, and funeral would happen at the same time. How can this be?
Consider the following quote from one of many physics teachers:
“Newton’s third law of motion states: Whenever one object exerts a force on a second object, the second object exerts an equal and opposite force on the first object. One force is called the action force. The other force is called the reaction force. It doesn’t matter which force we call action and which we call reaction. The important thing is that they are coparts (sic) of a single interaction and that neither force exists without the other. They are equal in strength and opposite in direction.” -- Hewitt, Paul G. Conceptual Physics, Third Edition. Menlo Park, California: Addison Wesley, 1999, p. 75.
Let’s consider the implications of this statement in regards to time.
What is a reaction to an action but an effect to a cause? So Newton’s third law could have just as well stated that for every “cause” there is an equal and opposite “effect.” Then, if the reaction and action are co-parts of a single interaction, and simultaneous with each other because of the singleness of their interaction, cause and effect must be co-parts of a single interaction and simultaneous with each other as well!
What does this do to our concept of time, in which an effect is supposed to follow a cause and not happen at the same time as the cause? At the very least, this brings our concept of time, and all time-related phenomena, into serious question.
Let’s look at a real-world example, to help give form to this question.
If a speeding car rams head-on into a parked car, the parked car pushes back against the speeding car with an equal and opposite force (Newton’s third law). While the crash is taking place and the parked car is resisting, pushing back against the speeding car, and at the same time is being pushed backward along the road by the speeding car, the parked car’s tires grate against the road in the direction the speeding car is pushing it. We see that the forces involved are expressing themselves in different patterns, spreading out in different ways, but they still add up to being equal and opposite each other.
Continuing to watch this action-reaction event, we see that the road, in turn, resists and pushes back against the grating of the tires of the car being pushed across it. The road is resisting with an equal and opposite reaction to the onward force of the tires (friction) and, by extension, the road is also resisting the speeding car that is crashing into the parked car. So we have a force that is spread out along speeding car, parked car, and the road’s asphalt. But it doesn’t stop with those three elements, for the force is also extended into the Earth upon which the asphalt is anchored. Therefore, the Earth plays its part in resisting the force of the speeding car. And it’s all happening simultaneously with the crumpling of the hood and bending of the chassis of the parked car, according to Newton’s third law of motion, which states that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” and it is arbitrary which side of the equation you call the action side and which you call the reaction side.
How can we call the reaction equal when the speeding car knocks the parked car many feet into the same direction it is speeding in? Wouldn’t this show that the speeding car has a greater force?
The sum total of resisting force is equal to the force of the vehicle that is crashing into the parked car; however distributed the parked car’s reaction force may be amongst car, tires, road, Earth, and even Moon. It is all an equal and opposite reaction to the colliding of the speeding car. All these things – Earth, road, tires, car, and even the moon’s gravity – being interconnected at the time of the impact have the property of being a unified system resisting the collision of the speeding car.
There is no need to get into vector mathematics to account for all the forces involved here, for whatever the vectors are they all add up to an equal and opposite reaction to the speeding car. The equation remains balanced.
And of course I could have used the terms cause and effect in place of action and reaction to signify the same unified interaction and the same simultaneity that each side of the interaction shares.
We can even include the Moon’s force upon the Earth in this unified system of reaction to the colliding of the speeding car, for it definitely is connected to the Earth through gravity, electricity, light, and other forces. “Pick a flower on earth and you move the farthest star,” said Physicist Paul A.M. Dirac, winner of the 1933 Nobel Prize. In this case, the Moon is moved, if ever so slightly, by the collision. And so is the Sun, through its gravitational connection with the Earth and Moon system. And so are the other planets and stars, due to their gravitational connectedness with the Sun.
The effect of a cause happens precisely when the cause happens, as an equal and opposite reaction to it. How can this be in the context of time, where effect is supposed to follow cause?
Remember: “The important thing is that [the action and reaction] are coparts of a single interaction and that neither force exists without the other.” When the apple falls to the ground, the ground moves up to meet the apple at the same time. This isn’t noticed by us, of course, due to our small size in comparison to the huge size of the Earth.
If it is true that all things in the universe are connected to each other in one way or the other, as many great scientists and philosophers have stated throughout the ages, then reason tells us that all things everywhere happen simultaneously.
Let’s take another example.
A yardstick is composed of many trillions of atoms. If I push one end of that yardstick any distance, say an inch, every one of the trillions of atoms in it moves an inch simultaneously. I don’t move the atoms in one end of the stick when my finger exerts a force upon them, and then they collide with their closest neighbors and move them in turn, and those neighbors collide with their closest neighbors and move them in turn, and so on down the length of the stick until the whole stick has moved due to some wave motion traveling through the sea of atoms comprising the stick. They all move simultaneously, as a unit, not as a wave. All the atoms are connected to each other as part of a system. The system moves.
Sure, in one old-fashioned view, we can imagine that the atoms in the yardstick bump into each other in a domino-like chain reaction down the length of the wood, which might be referred to as wave propagation, but I’ve already made this type of movement through time suspect by conjuring up Newton’s third law and the existence of simultaneity, so I won’t repeat it here. I will say, though, that our view of time may be a matter of perspective; it’s like the difference between looking at a table’s surface edgewise, thus providing us with an imperfect view of the top of the table, or looking straight down onto the top of the table from above, giving us a much broader and enlightened view of the table top and the contents on it. There are many unanswered questions and cherished illusions regarding time, and space, that need to be revisited, but it can’t all be done in this one essay.
Now, if we view this system – that is, the yardstick – as something separate from its environment, then we may be tempted to think that it is moving non-simultaneously with the other things within its environment. But we must not forget that it actually is moving simultaneously with the finger pushing it, which is one of the things in its environment. And the finger is connected to the arm, the arm to the torso, the torso to the chair, the chair to the floor, the floor to the Earth, the Earth to the Sun, the Sun to the stars, and so on. So all this is also involved in that yardstick moving.
Besides, it is only opinion that states that the yardstick relates to its environment as something separate and not simultaneous with it; and being an opinion its reliability should illicit our immediate suspicions, since most opinions are unexamined ideas and, therefore, the most dangerous of all mental constructs no matter how universally accepted.
Some might argue here that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, not even a gravitational tug, and so the moon’s part in this wreck must take place some second or so after the wreck. But I remind you of Newton’s third law which states that the reaction is equal and simultaneous to the action. So there is either a contradiction here or Newton is wrong or, more likely, our concept of time is at fault and our faulty knowledge is making us logically, but erroneously, think that the moon reacts after the wreck instead of at the same moment.
But what is this really saying? It’s saying that the baseball player in the outfield will catch the ball at the same moment the batter hits it! Indeed, he’ll catch the ball at the same moment he crawls out of bed to drive to the game!
The reason we don’t see these things happen concurrently is that we have been programmed for generations to see them chronologically. It’s admittedly difficult to see them simultaneously – but not impossible.
I have no illusions about how crazy this sounds but logic bears it out just as logic explains the crazy notions of Einstein’s time and space distortions and the once ridiculed assertion that the Earth is turning on its axis rather than sitting rigidly in space while the heavens revolve around it. Besides, this simultaneity of action is not a new thought. The Eleatic school of Greek philosophers, founded by Xenophanes (born c. 570 BC), whose main teaching was that the universe is singular, eternal, and unchanging, dealt with these matters consistently, stressing that appearances of multiplicity, change, and motion are mere illusions to be dispelled through reason and revelation.
The shocking idea that all this happens at the same time (no matter what we think we are perceiving) hinges on two basic assumptions: the universe is a unified whole and Newton’s third law is correct. In this case, if one thing is simultaneous, everything has to be simultaneous with it because everything is touching in one way or the other. If the reaction of the parked car to the colliding car seems to cause another reaction to itself (that of the road to the grating of the parked car’s tires), that new reaction can be viewed either as the action or the reaction side of the equation. Remember, it’s arbitrary. And this arbitrariness can be taken to any part of the chain of events, which makes this chain of events just one singular event. It is still subject to Newton’s third law. We must view all the parts of the event as concurrent events, events happening at the same time – which is, simply, a singular event.
Let’s use another example.
Push on a rubber membrane and the membrane pushes back on your hand at exactly the same time and with exactly the same force. Do it very slowly and you will see that at every millimeter-step of the way, a force is being supplied from both your hand and from the membrane. This is an equal and opposite force of precisely the same magnitude, coming from diametrically opposed directions, and producing a net force of zero.
Both the membrane and the hand are cause and effect, simultaneously. It’s arbitrary which you call the action (or cause) and which you call the reaction (or effect) because they are both pushing against each other at precisely the same moment in time. So which is the cause and which is the effect?
The key point here is that the whole thing is just one event, existing at the same time, in which the hand-pressure and the membrane-pressure are merely aspects of the single, unitary event.
Now, the so-called prior journey of the hand to the membrane (as a cause coming in from outside) is a moot point. The reason I say this is that one may argue that situations like the hand-membrane example are isolated events, leaving initial causes outside the arena of the action, and that the actions of the hand and membrane enjoy their simultaneity with each other only in isolation.
But modern science is telling us that no part of the universe is isolated from the rest, that everything touches directly or indirectly, and all of this touching is done through one force field or another; be it electric, magnetic, nuclear, gravitational, or some other force; and that nothing actually physically touches anything else – not your hand in your lover’s hand, not your feet against the ground, not even your teeth mashing the food in your mouth. Indeed, physicality itself comes into question. All touching between things is done through some sort of force field interaction and these force fields extend outward from their so-called centers, the atoms, to infinity, diminishing in strength with distance but never disappearing entirely. In other words, there is no strictly empty space anywhere in the universe and everything is touching, in that it is situated right slam up against the next thing through force fields like electricity, light, and gravity.
Even in empty space where atoms are greatly dispersed, sometimes meters or more apart, they are still touching each other through their force fields and maintaining a balance with their neighbors nearby and far away.
Therefore, in a universe manifesting such interconnectedness between all its parts, with no spots of pure nothingness in between anything, with everything in it experiencing a simultaneous “action-reaction” relationship with its immediate neighbors, and those neighbors experiencing the same simultaneous action-reaction relationship with their immediate neighbors, and so on down the line in all directions throughout the universe, then all things must be simultaneous with all other things, to the ends of the universe, if any one thing is simultaneous with another, due to the same principle cited above in Newton’s Third Law.
That is to say that if there is any single simultaneous action-reaction event in this unified universe, all things must be simultaneous with it, since all things are touching in one way or the other and there are no gaps of pure nothingness separating any part of it.
All things must be happening at one and the same time.
Hence, time loses its meaning – at least the meaning we are accustomed to giving it, such as things following other things in a temporal stream – and takes on the new meaning of things existing and correlated with each other right now in a space-like time dimension which we view imperfectly as the present moment.
“When” becomes “where” in this simultaneous time-space.
Since the idea that everything is happening outside a flow of time, that everything is happening concurrently, such that every event is currently happening simultaneously with every other event, and that they all actually total up to one huge singular event, the seamless connectedness of the universe must be looked at more closely.
Lee Smolin, in his book The Life of the Cosmos (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997) on page 248 writes: “In the quantum world – which I must insist is, as far as we have been able to determine, our world – whenever two systems have interacted it is more common to find them sharing properties… than to find them in states such that each have definite individual properties.” Four pages later, Mr. Smolin reminisces about important revelations he has had in quantum physics. He writes that after studying papers written by Einstein, Podolsky, Rosen, Bohr, and Bell, outside on the grass, he went back to his room and lay in bed staring up at the corner where the ceiling met the two walls. “I was convinced immediately,” he says, “that there was only one possible conclusion: space was an illusion, so the coherence of the world must be behind and outside space. While space may be a useful construct for certain purposes, a fundamental theory cannot be about particles moving in space. Space must only immerge as a kind of statistical or averaged description, like temperature.” Mr. Smolin then adds, “I recall also being very struck that there were atoms in my body that were entangled inextricably with atoms in the bodies of every person I had ever touched.”
In the glossary of Mr. Smolin’s book, he defines a critical system to be a “macroscopic system in which structure can be observed at every length scale from the atomic scale to the size of the system itself. A related property is that every part is correlated with every other part, in the sense that if any one part is perturbed the influence can be felt in any other part of the system.”
Many grand thinkers in our time as well as in ancient times have testified to the cohesive nature of our universe, a cohesion that links everything tightly, intricately, and seamlessly together. Just because most of us can’t grasp this unification of everything, doesn’t mean it’s not so.
The very fact that so many great minds have said it is so is reason enough for all people to seriously study the possibility.
In Istvan and Magdolna Hargittai’s book In Our Own Image, Personal Symmetry in Discovery, the authors quote Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, a 1937 Nobel laureate in medicine, as saying, “Nature has no bottom: its most basic principle is ‘organization’. If nature puts two things together, she produces something new with new qualities, which cannot be expressed in terms of qualities of the components. When going from electrons and protons to atoms, from here to molecules, molecular aggregates, etc., up to the cell or the whole animal, at every level we find something new, a new breathtaking vista. Whenever we separate two things, we lose something, something which may have been the most essential feature.”
The above quotes help to illuminate the cohesion of the universe. From the infinitely small to the infinitely large, we see life, connectedness, and organization everywhere. There is a growing consensus among scientist to see the universe as a connected whole rather than a collection of parts. Relations between things are held to be as important as or even more important than the things themselves.
The entire universe is an infinite expression of relationships. So we should spend a moment speaking briefly about relationships and realize that the simultaneity of events is an expression of relationships.
In a 3-dimensional world, relationship between things must be fundamental to its very structure. Let’s use a cube for an easily visualized example. There must be three dimensions existing simultaneously with each other for that cube to exist. It could not exist in two dimensions – not even as simply a square plane – because there would have to be some amount of extension into a third dimension to give the plane form and substance. And for that same reason, a one-dimensional structure cannot exist.
For the cube to exist at all, it must exist with all its three dimensions intact simultaneously. Any other three-dimensional object is obliged to exist by the same law, or not exist at all. Furthermore – and this is important – for any dimension of space to exist at all, all three dimensions must exist together at the same time. All three must exist simultaneously. Not first one dimension, then the other, and then the other. But all together as one unit, indivisible, and fundamental, subject to no further reduction. The three dimensions are not constituent parts of but three different aspects of one thing. Each depends on the other to exist at all.
So you cannot whittle an object in space down to any less than three dimensions. Below three, you have nothing. You can have just two or one in theory, but not in reality. You must have that third dimension to give body and reality to the thing.
“The fact is that the more important part by far of a human being is his humanity, to relate not only to all living creatures, but being – what used to be called by people who were regarded as eccentrics – in tune with the infinite.” -- Ashley Montagu, in an interview with Denis Brian; “Genius Talk”, (New York: Plennum Press, 1995).
We are the universe, indivisible and right now.
Why then, if there is no flow of time and everything happens simultaneously, do we perceive motion? For isn’t motion the act of something changing positions in space, and doesn’t that require some amount of time to do?
Again, I have to refer to our imperfect view of time.
There is an old Chinese story that I think I first encountered in Douglas R. Hofstadter’s Pulitzer prize winning book Godel, Escher, and Bach: And Eternal Golden Braid (New York: Vintage Books, 1989). It goes something like this: Three monks are watching a flag blowing in the wind. The first monk says, “The flag is moving.” The second monk replies, “No. It is the wind that is moving.” And the third says, “You’re both wrong. It is your minds that are moving.”
Perhaps this points to the source of our main difficulty in interpreting motion and change, and not being able to see the simultaneity of everything. When we see something move – say, cars moving through a busy downtown intersection – might they not be moving at all and this vision of continuous change be due to our consciousness shifting gears, as it were, into changing and biased viewpoints of the same eternal scene? Our upbringing, steeped as it is in ideas of cause and effect and the linear flow of time, would suggest motion and change to us, strongly. So that’s what we are apt to see.
But suppose we pick two or more cars going the same speed in the same direction. Relative to each other, they are not moving. And we can shift our consciousness a little further and see these same cars, relative to everything else around them, as not moving, while everything else – traffic, buildings, pedestrians, etc. – flow with smooth fluidity around them, like the changing patterns in a kaleidoscope.
This is in accordance with Einstein’s revelations about relativity. Our viewpoint is no more wrong or right than anyone else’s. Everything is relative. Everything is relational. Everything is related to everything else. How we see a situation depends on the point of view from which we look at it, or are socially conditioned to see it.
What if we see the situation from the point of view of everything happening at once; that is, everything happening at once and relative not to the tiny little “me” but to the entirety of the scene itself, which includes the tiny little me as one of its many details? This will be a kaleidoscopic view in which everything changes simultaneously. This is almost a gravity-defying experience and certainly a thrill for many mystics, philosophers, and scientists who have done it.
Suffice it to say, for now, that time as we are accustomed to knowing it is a tool we have created for our use. It is the measure of what we perceive to be motion – that is, the observed change of something’s position in space into another position. Aristotle said, “Before and after are involved in motion, but time is these in so far as they are numbered” (Phys. 223a28).
In other words, time is our measure of change. Nature doesn’t do the numbering. We do. It’s our invention. In this view – the view that time is merely another kind of yardstick – time loses its throne.
The subject of time has been argued back and forth between different schools of thought for at least twenty-six centuries. We know this from tracing philosophical records back to the sixth century B.C. in the Greek city-states along the coast of ancient western Asia Minor.
Some thinkers have tried to break time up into a collection of moments, to reduce it to discreet units, or instants, of time. But if time passes in this way, as a procession of distinct and separate moments, it means that there is no continuity from moment to moment. One must leap through periods of non-time to get from one moment to the next. This is more suspect of error than is the idea that there is no time. If we must leap from moment to moment – leaping over periods of non-time to get to each succeeding moment of time – the entire physical universe would be blinking in and out of existence like a strobe light.
So time must be one cohesive state, if anything. And if that is the case, how can it be divided into the three separate parts of past, present, and future?
Henri Poincarč said, “Before a complex of sensations becomes a recollection placeable [sic] in time, it has ceased to be actual. We must lose our awareness of its infinite complexity, or it is still actual. It is only after a memory has lost all life that it can be classed in time, just as only dissected flowers find their way into the herbarium of a botanist.”
Admittedly, this is a lot to take in when one has not spent considerable time questioning our most basic assumptions of time and space. But this is no reason not to ask such questions. Our knowledge of the universe is continually changing, like the image in a kaleidoscope, and presumably we have a long way to go before we know everything, before we wipe out all our illusions.
To demand that a new theory fit seamlessly into the construct of the old store of knowledge before it can be taken seriously is something like demanding that modern cosmological theory fit seamlessly with ancient flat-earth beliefs. Sometimes the old must give way to the new. The bird must leave it shell behind. The baby must leave the womb. These events are giant steps forward in consciousness for the bird and the baby. The rules of their worlds radically change. If they remain in their old worlds refusing to move, they perish. A breakthrough in our concepts of time and space will be a giant step forward in the consciousness for the entire human race.
At the very least, with the dawning of a new awareness of time, all stress-related illnesses will begin to evaporate like dissipating morning fog under the bright light of a new understanding.
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Smolin, Lee The Life of the Cosmos New York: Oxford University Press, 1997
The VNR Concise Encyclopedia of Mathematics, Second Edition New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1989
“Glimpse into a Writer’s Life”
James H. Bath
As I am a writer, I will jot down notes as I go about cleaning my desk. There are things on it that have been collecting dust for years. Yellow, curled papers with notes scribbled on them, numbers and names I have forgotten the meaning of. By the way, this last sentence I ended with a preposition. The editor in me winced. But what can I do about it? Change the last part to “names and numbers the meaning of which I have forgotten”? Please.
So I balled the sheet of paper up and tossed it in the trash. Then I pulled its companion from under the heap and balled it up and threw it in the trash. Now, I think, my convalescing wife has sat up in bed, and the breakfast dishes haven’t been washed yet, so here is an opportunity to give her some exercise. I’ll start the dishes then assist her (as little as possible for her own good) in getting to the kitchen sink via her slow-moving walker. She loves doing these dishes. And it helps me out a great deal. So, with no further adieu… I’ll be right back.
Lots of people might ridicule this style of writing, but I think it’s beneficial. It loosens the gears, gets rid of the cobwebs, lets the bats out of the attic, frees up rusty psycho-joints, yawns the imagination, reestablishes old mental associations forgotten under the weight of more formal, organized writing. And, hey, sometimes you get something usable out of it. It also allows the reader a more personal, if embarrassing, glimpse into your life. We all stink of mediocrity, don’t we? That stench, we writers, try desperately to escape. But we never do. Not even the greats among us. Though they produce lasting work, work that retains its own life long past their deaths, the bulk of their work is trite, embarrassing fluff that quickly decays and disappears even before their death – work that shows the pathetic humanness of their lives. Embarrassing stuff.
So what? We’re all full of shit and all full of gold, at the same time.
Okay, the wife washed the dishes, checked the lima beans in the slow cooker, stirred them, added water, suggested I transfer last nights left over vegetable stew from the pot into a Tupperware container, place that back in the fridge, and use the pot to cook rice for the beans tonight. We’ll finish up the vegetable stew the following night.
Getting all this together, I took a break to walk outside, saw a letter from the lawyer in the box, felt a jolt of fear. There is no reason for this fear. The letter from the lawyer is just routine stuff dealing with the Social Security Administration, a client copy for my records. Well, there is reason for fear, I suppose. But it’s nameless fear, formless, just a possible exigency that might, remotely, come to pass. That is, there might be some misunderstanding, miscommunication, presumption on some smirk-faced clerks end, that somehow ricochets from me (if there is some legal problem) onto my innocent and ill wife. This causes me fear – my concern for her. And it’s not ungrounded, for in the past certain people have aimed attacks at me and missed, the fools!, hitting her and putting her life in danger. Indeed, this has played a considerable part in her present illness. But the whole experience is so damned subtle it defies easy description. And besides that, I recoil shiveringly from even mentioning my wife’s illness at all, for to mention it is to feed it some degree of energy which I’m afraid may tend to keep the illness alive.
I finished drying the dishes, put on a pot of coffee, glanced at the wife who looks depressed lying in bed watching TV. Now I’d better finish transferring the stew and wash the pot.
I feel trite. I feel… who the Hell is going to be interested in this pathetic attempt at literary expression? My cerebral cortex tells me “I am.” My limbic regions say, “You’re so ugly, so delusional, so embarrassingly sophomoric and small. People are going to feel sorry for you, at best. Sneer at your ramblings and ostracize you, at worst.”
Okay. So be it. At least I am trying to be honest. Not ridiculously honest, not naively so. I don’t intend to give away secrets that will harm anybody, including myself. But I don’t feel a loss of admiration from anyone will harm me. To the contrary, it’ll help me. To be dependent upon the lattice work of people’s admiration, to keep me buoyed up, bobbing on the surface of humanity and its wishy-washy ideas and sense of values, is like depending on the good graces of an active earthquake. It’s never a stable state, people’s opinions.
Now, Keith Nichols is giving the midday weather report. We’re entering a beautiful stretch of blue-sky’d days here in Charleston, SC. The nip in the air is beginning to nap. The sun is smiling. My wife blessed me for a sneeze, which told me her spirits are not as low as I had only moments ago feared. My feet are sweating in my slippers, my posture is more slooped, or stooped. I straighten my spine, sitting here in my chair at my desk, and feel 3 inches taller. A note sounds from the computer telling me one of my reminders to myself has clicked in. I check it out: “Research Endoscopy.” Okay.
I now put the lawyer’s letter in the gray Oxford folder at my feet. I look at my cell phone still plugged into the charger. I see my wife’s solar cell calculator basking in the light of my hot desk lamp. Two issues of The Scientist under it. Here’s a coupon for saving on Ensure. Guess I’ll save that. Here’s the Cingular time card I’ll put away into the bag I stuff all inconsequential receipts. Better yet, I’ll just throw that away. Here’s half of a paper towel I’ll fold over once and place on top of the flashlight that doesn’t work, not because the batteries are dead but because the bulb is blown. Out from under the flashlight I pull a grocery receipt I ball up and toss into the trash. More Ensure coupons. Please. Trash. More coupons. What the heck. I’ll keep it along with the other two. I can move the medical dictionary back to the book shelf now. More receipts. Geez. Trash. Trash. Trash. Trash. Ah. The paid phone bill. I’ll put that in the stack of other paid phone bills.
This is an info sheet from the diabetes monitor box. Back in it goes. Here’s a letter delivered to me by mistake (I wonder where they send my mail). Here are two more letters delivered here by mistake. Previous tenants, I guess. I’ll set those aside, to return to sender. Ooh! Bank statement. I’ll place this in the bank statement drawer. Must remember to enter last transaction in MS Money. Here are descriptions of medications my wife takes. I’ll shove it more neatly in a corner, get to the medication stuff later. Another coupon. Old notes, trash. Blood pressure manual for the monitor. According to it, my wife’s spike up to 165 over 70 this morning is no cause for alarm, since it didn’t stay that high. Okay, back in the blood pressure monitor drawer. Which reminds me, I want to chart her vitals in the spreadsheet software, get some graphic charts, find some trends, some correlations between blood pressure, glucose levels, iron intake, etc.
Lease stuff, wife’s social security stuff… geez… I need a break. Back in a minute. Save this file. Feel bladder wanting relief. Just got an email delivery beep. Wasn’t actually to me, but to a coworker of sorts… though we’ve never actually met.
Just sneeked a cig outside. Put my underware in bathroom for a bath. Took wife’s yellow blouse to closet. She asked, “What you wanna eat?”
“Oh!” It’s already 1:PM. “I don’t know. You wanna try out those beans?”
Thoughtful silence from her. Expression of “Doesn’t really strike a gleeful chord.”
I sat down, wrote the last few sentences. Saved the file. Getting back up now, to discuss the midday meal. Jello for sure, since my research is proving it aids substantially the process of granulation in her foot wounds.
My bath has to be postponed. Gave her the jello. Threw the empty container in the dish water to clean for making more Jello. “We can have a spoonful of those beans,” she informed me. I agree. She asked if I got myself some Jello. “No. Um,” I say while writing this, “but I’ll probably get some in a minute.” That will be the orange Jello. I just gave her the last of the lemon. Okay. Back in a minute.
“Now I have Jello,” I tell her, as I sit back down at my desk.
“I said: Now I have Jello.”
“Uh, that’s good.”
We never know what will become a masterpiece, do we? I had the thought, some 30 seconds ago while making my (orange) Jello, that this very writing just might become a masterpiece. Hey, it might. Who can tell? The ingredients of a masterpiece are mysterious. Sometimes the best researched, most eloquently written articles never see the light of… but I don’t want to finish that cliché… okay, so I will… day.
The road/bridge construction across the street makes me think of the spectators watching the pyramids or the China Wall go up. An undertaking so massive is quite impressive, even in this day and age. But it wrecks havoc on TV reception. The tall cranes scraping the sky everywhere, laboring under loads of concrete tonnage that is becoming the new highway.
But now for those beans.
“Here. Let these beans cool while I get you some vitamin C.”
“Alright.” She had a look of distaste.
I pounded up 1500 milligrams of C (in the folds of a napkin) with a hammer, poured the powder into a tablespoon, and handed it to her. She already had the apple juice to down it with. She made that distaste look again. For the past few days she’d been doing that (kinda shows she’s getting better).
“Look here,” I demanded, “This vitamin C is doing you good. It’s medicine.”
“I know that.”
“Then stop rewarding me with that disgusted look!”
“I just want one scoop of beans.”
I gave her the beans. It amounted to, maybe, 3 tablespoons worth.
Eating mine, I said, “They’re pretty good. No salt. But I don’t mind.”
She tried hers. “You can put some salt in now.”
I looked at her bowl, then realized she meant I could put it in the slow cooker pot.
“Alright. How’s this much?” I showed her about half a t-spoon’s worth of salt in my palm.
“Uh-huh. That’ll do.”
I put it in the pot and stirred it.
“Did you have enough to eat, Honey Bun?” I asked.
I thought for a minute. Was that enough? I considered the nutrition. Mega-dose of vitamin C, jello and bean protein… the vitamin C could use helper vitamins, like the B-complex, to be optimally metabolized by her cells.
“How about an Ensure?”
“Yea. Okay.” (She loves those things, and I don’t blame her – they taste good).
“I’m going to give you a chocolate because you have more of them than vanilla. Okay?”
I repeated it.
“Yea. That’ll do.”
Now my constipation is hurting my sides, and I have to pee again. I’ll take this opportunity to refill my cup of coffee and sneak a cig on the porch before I take my shower.
Next day. My wife’s vitals were excellent this morning. Surprising. I had hoped for (and reasoned for) a reduction in her blood pressure by taking her off the ferrous sulfate, iron supplement, for a few days. The results have been encouraging to put it mildly. For 3 days in a row her morning blood pressure has fallen to more acceptable levels. But this morning they were like a healthy 20-year-old’s. Glucose great, too, at 93.
Anyway, she is snoozing peacefully now, her face turned to the bright lamp. I considered turning the lamp off but it looked as if her body was enjoying the photons flowing from the lamp, so I left it on.