Why Reality Was Invented In Time
Universe Without End
Time: The Great and Dangerous Invention
You are awash in reality, not hewing to any place. All manner of things are drifting by – in, out and around – a beautiful, swirling sea of connecting, mingling and disconnecting stuff... Oh, wait! No, you're not! You are, instead, a member of a species that invented time, eliminating all that structureless meshing around. Reality In Time finds it's position and a steady place among the chaos.
Reality In Time?
Time is scaffolding, structure on which our three-dimensions adhere, a way of measuring sequence. We call this handy gimmick the time-space continuum, and we use it to order things as if reality is smooth with all its lumps thinned out like good oatmeal.
What time is not is an essential thing in the nature reality masks. It came later, a tool our logical brains evolved to help us better observe nature, essentially by making it seem to stand still, and it changes everything we think we know into something even more knowable.
Well, it gives us that illusion, anyway, and therein rests a host of problems. We are not looking at nature itself, but nature as in a way we find easier to handle. Easy, you may have noticed, is not the best virtue nor the most reliable guide.
We're so adjusted to time as a fact that understanding time as something less than basic is, well, close to impossible. However, in the wise words of Steely Dan (the musical group, not the fictional, phallic symbol): "It just couldn't be, and only a fool would say that."
Steely Dan was singing about a Utopian ideal, which is only slightly more likely than time's being a fact and much less attractive.
Take your average "time slice," as defined by Brian Green in The Fabric of The Cosmos. That would be this universe your senses are feeding you now, in this jiffy, and then, in the next jiffy, there has to be another and another. For time to be actual, each moment of your "now" must be reproduced, slightly changed in each succeeding one. How many nows and, ultimately, how many universes would we have to maintain out there, just to keep up?
This isn't simply a mental exercise. Life is enriched by knowledge, and better insight enables the invention of better tools.
Early in life, we learn to think of time passing or, horror of horrors, flying by. We may visualize ourselves traveling a kind of trail with a past and a future extending in opposite directions.
Evolution probably prepared us to better cope with our limited grasp on reality by giving us time as an anchor for what we hope is reality. It's a nice gift, but it can also be imprisoning and is always misleading.
There are pitfalls everywhere as we come to see our lives as a march from birth to death at a predictable speed toward an inevitable demise.
As we all know, our universe is currently full. You remember that from high school, right? There are no vacuums, no rooms waiting to be filled with new stuff. We can neither add nor subtract. We do all know that, don't we? All we ever do is remodel and adjust the furniture.
This means that the only place your past, the one you're so fond of, the one with all your friends and family and your adventures in it, can exist is in memory. It's now a fiction created by you and only as true as you wish it to be.
That's why common observers unfailingly have different versions of any event. We're free make it up because there are no facts left behind to contradict us.
For purposes of civil peace, we generally concur on as much as possible, but even that social cohesion melts over time.
The same is true of the future. We can predict away, but not a single thing is absolutely bound to happen.
There are physical laws, of course, including some we haven't discovered or fully exposed, but they are broad enough to allow anything we can imagine. It just makes us feel more secure to believe that the old reliable time-space continuum will deliver predictably. And it will, but mainly because we want it to, not because it has to.
While keeping our treasured time in place to guide and comfort us, what is it we actually exist in? Obviously, there is something, and we are part of it.
What we are is a entropy-defying clump of matter in what seems to be a sea of potential. We don't make quantum leaps, however, because they'd be lonely and disorienting.
We leap in unison and, heavy as that is, in small increments in a great but slow adventure best currently defined as evolution. We certainly don't move steadily through time.
We're not alone, and we don't reorder the stuff of reality at any level exclusively on our own. Cats participate as do elephants and trees.
Every bit of matter contains information and the ability to interact. The effects of intention or its lack are things we have yet to fully understand. But we can't pretend that every other living thing is yoked to our precious invention, time.
Other animals may recognize only natural cycles and circadian rhythms while surrendering nothing to the strictures of conservative time. Hey, they may even see other dimensions.
If only my cat could tell me what he is staring at that, as far as I can tell, isn't there... Well, that's another hub.
For now, I'll close this one, and go make sure I'm still anchored in this tiny corner of the time-dominated universe we call Earth.
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