Let’s be clear. There is only now.
The illusion about Time is that there is a behind and a forward at all. What was and what will be is in front of us now. Time is a dimension … less obvious than those dimensions in space … more like those dimensions of electromagnetism. I can be in Time and out of Time. Time appears when I measure it and disappears when I don’t. Time is in motion, like everything else. Even when we keep Time, we have to move. The ‘present’ doesn’t stop Time. It is all Time, all at once.
Past and Future are projections from the present. What was and what will be are relative to where-ever and when-ever I happen to be at the moment. Both change as the present changes. The ‘past’ is a kaleidoscope of after-effects etched on to the senses. The ‘future’ tries to fill the gaps. Memories and wishes only happen now. We have strapped our senses to an imaginary ‘timeline’ because it works to exercise intentions and put things on order. Our current concept of Time is a survival tool. Everything, all at once, doesn’t work for us. We want things one after another. Eyes get used to seeing certain stuff and let the rest flow by.
The subject-verb-object structure that we use to organize information – I do this to that … and that is all there is to it – comes in handy but it is only the tip of the iceberg. In a universe of nine dimensions, for example, our grammar would only cover the first four. It is simply delusional to think that all we see is all there is. Where we are is just a matter of focus.
I am a believer in mental exercise. Thought experiments. For years I practiced seeing ‘Time’ as ‘To me’. I think it might have something to do with a book I read by Robert Ornstein. I still do it once in a while, as a reminder. Time is an extension of experience, not a thing all on its own. There is nothing if it’s not ‘to me’.
Another thought experiment: a proton sitting on the crest of a light wave would take 13.8 billion years to cross the universe as we know it at the moment, from the point of view of earth. From the point of view of the proton, no time would have passed at all. It would all be the same space. Time and space drape over the observer.
By now, I have learned that I am some sort of constant in all this… I have been there from the beginning. Same me at seven years old, hiding the knife I stole so my Dad won’t find it. Same me at 23, driving up the 405 on a Saturday morning to get married … at 36, jumping with joy at the birth of my sons … at 69, overwhelmed with sadness at the death of my brother … at this moment watching for the sun to rise on to the San Jacinto mountains. I will be the same when I die. I just won’t know it anymore. I will be out of time.
“Time is nature’s way to keep everything from happening all at once”, wrote Ray Cummings. In fact, everything does indeed happen all at once. Moment to moment, it’s all there. An ‘observer’, some one separate, is necessary for anything to ‘happen’ at all. In the right brain, everything appears immediately … each moment there is an experience without an observer. In the left brain, we are disposed to chunk the world up into manageable pieces, to take control. We learn to choose between things. We can spend a lifetime, separating out a self. We discovered Time as a cycle, but we invented Time as a straight line, choosing to see only parts of the periodicity, in order to keep track of things, in order to separate here from there and me from you … in order to have any order at all.
With my left brain, I create a point in space by singling out information from the field in front of me. As soon as I do that, I create a circumstance when the point wasn’t there. That becomes a moment in time. Awareness that the point wasn’t there implies that it could not be there again. That becomes the future. Any point without a past and a future has no name. For it to endure, I must call it something. Pull it out of the flow. Left-brain names drop the thing into Space-Time, but only work for a while. The right brain is needed to connect the dots. We can never name everything, so it’s all going to change.
There must be a moment between one thing and anything else. A moment creates a difference. Time is space. Space is time. Now is everywhere. Then has no place. When one loses track of time, one loses track period. Time is required to create a line. In the short term, lines can lead to places. But eventually, every line becomes a circle. In fact, it was circles of stones that marked the pattern that became Time in the first place. People realized that something invisible was going on. Time could be represented. In space. As a rhythm.
When all the information comes at once, we are swept away and identities are lost. We must pick and choose where we pay attetion. For identities to persist in the flow, they take time. Any ‘thing’ takes time. And that is the illusion. The chair I am sitting in today is not actually the same chair I sat in yesterday, not exactly. And it will not be the same chair tomorrow, if it is there at all. To keep order, I must pretend certain things stay the same, including people. Before time, everything is possible. In time, it can only be this or that.
Time is required for awareness. It requires a moment to distinguish one thing from another. Same moment, same thing. If there is no time involved, I am that thing. After distinguishing one thing from another, we can begin calculating … numbers come into play. It’s easy to forget that we are making it up. The ‘thing’ starts in here, not out there.
We invent a staircase and then get lost on the stairs.