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"Time," for the Past and Future Man.

Updated on November 22, 2010

March on...but the Past will come too!

A young Albert Einstein to whom time remained a mystery in many ways.  Wiki pic.
A young Albert Einstein to whom time remained a mystery in many ways. Wiki pic.

A Little Bit of Mystery Does You Good.

Is the future pre-ordained?

Einstein said the arrow of time flies in only one direction. Faulkner disagreed, saying, “The past is never dead - it’s not even past.” Greg Isles in “The Quiet Game” has his protagonist musing “All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born, webs of heredity and environment, of desire and consequence, of history and eternity. Haunted by wrong turns and roads not taken, we pursue images perceived as new, but whose provenance dates to the dim drama of childhood, which are themselves but ripples of consequence echoing down the generations. The quotidian (commonplace, ed.) demands of life distract from this resonance of images and events, but some of us feel it always.”

Yes, some feel it always and like Robert Frost cry. “And miles to go before I sleep; and miles to go before I sleep.”

In another way we might say: living a life is like riding on a helter-skelter in which the present - the position you are at during any given moment - has no reality because it constantly changes. And the past is never really past, because you always think about it and its effect never leaves you, influencing what you do today and what you will do tomorrow. And what you did back then was influenced by everything that had ever happened to you, from your time in the womb, and stretching back into what your parents and grandparents had done, all the way back to the beginnings of time and life itself. In that respect, we are never free from the past any more than we can change the past and the present from effecting what we will do in the future. In fact, the future is probably preordained and could be mapped if we could ever have access to all the needed data. This is because what we will do is affected by what others will do, but their actions are foreseeable, too, with the right information. To know this, we would probably need computers more powerful than any today, because they would need to explore our genes and genetic drive as well as out minds and what had gone before in our lives, as well as accurately forecast what effect the earth, the sun, moon and other influences from our world and the universe would have on our actions. So, of course, it will always remain conjecture because we will never be privy to all that information; the province, many would say, of only God. (and what a computer He must have!). But there is little doubt we could do a better job than we have in predicting future events. In fact, huge strides are being made in this regard in the matters of deep space and objects that might one day menace this planet, and in criminology where criminal traits in youngsters are now being recognized, as well as the likelihood of convicted people being likely to re-offend and what we should do about these forecasts.

How wonderful that we do all have a past which we can refer-to and a future which we can guess at and anticipate with pleasure (and, indeed, pain). Imagine if we had not this capacity to remember and to prophesy. If all we had was the present with no ability to recall a second in the past nor one in the future. Our life would stop in its tracks, would it not? Because we would not recall - from moment to moment - how to do what we were actually employed in, be it typing on the laptop, eating and cutting the food or making love! It makes this scribe feel a bit nutty thinking about it. This beam of logic, once focused, makes us realize immediately we could not be without the dictates of the past and, sorry Mr. Einstein, reluctant as anyone would be to challenge that huge intellect, the arrow of time may fly in just one direction, but the bow from which it sprung remains firmly in the other direction - the past.

All actions employ past, present and future. When you decide to strike the typewriter key, you have made a decision to do so in the immediate past, your finger hits the key in the present (constantly changing) and the result which was perceived in the future enters the present and then the past as your letter is printed on the page. As regards effect, action and reaction, the future is the only state really with a time intervals attached to it. I mean, you can sculpt a Mount Rushmore which will affect millions of viewers for perhaps millions of years to come. The past, whether it was yesterday or 1000 years hence, produces a timeless image in the mind, although the effect on the present will surely be different. If you punch someone in the eye, the blow fades into the past, but the present is witness to the probable future of your own eye playing host to a bunch of knuckles. But the arrival of the lucky arrow from the French bowman into the British king’s eye had no effect that you can perceive today on your own being. It is sure to have had many other long term effects, though, which have made you what you are and where you are today.

We know so little about time, really. In fact any reality can be said to have been manufactured by the senses of the observer. If it is true the tree falls without sound if there is no ear there to change the waves of air into what we call sound, isn’t it equally true to say there are no familiar objects if the refracted light waves from their surfaces have no eye to capture them and change them into the things we describe? We are woven with “huge” molecules which smaller particles can pass between as easily as we do the poles in a goal post. In other words, my dear, you may not even be there if I don’t stand next to you and “see” you.

You might say “so what?” Would putting another meaning on all we see touch and smell make any difference to our lives? No one has even found the end of where reality - as in “stuff” - begins and ends anyway. Scientists once thought they had found the be-all and end-all of the building blocks of matter when they discovered the atom. Some 300 more particles later, each smaller than the last, they still don’t know.

Perhaps it’s good to be left with a few mysteries: is there other life in space, have UFO’s and “little green men” been down to visit us, why is the speed of light constant and cannot be exceeded, what is the real, ultimate, building block of life, did life really come from outer space and, why doesn’t Betty Smith fancy me more than that slob she’s going out with!? (Yeah, women, the greatest mystery of all!!).

And so on. Hope some of this makes some sense…Well, it beats thinking about the bills for an hour. Love you all…Bob



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    • diogenes profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Yes: Bt would it not remain a blank slate if the past could not be recorded? And the future not assessed?

      All a bit esoteric, I suppose...Bob

    • Sa`ge profile image


      7 years ago from Barefoot Island

      Thanks for an interesting hub. As far as time standing still because the past or the future may not be, is debatable. Starting with a blank slate might not be a bad idea. It would be interesting to say the least. I for one would not mind participating if it happened. No hang ups! 100$ clear, might be very interesting to see a true thinking person with ho influences to control emotions one way or the other, interrupting the brain waves. Aloha

    • diogenes profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Thanks all, I get the win-win, sorry, had a mental block. Bob

    • cathylynn99 profile image


      7 years ago from northeastern US

      the win - win situation - what the assertive person looks for in their dealings with others - making a deal in which both sides come out happy.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Faulkner's view makes me think of the Dali's painting, The Persistence of Memory. And Freud, "There is no time in the subconscious mind." Excellent Hub.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      I certainly had to get my sawdust going reading you hub. Thank you for started off a lot of thoughts.

    • diogenes profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Don't understand your concept of "the win." Like your first comment, though: the illusion of free will. Bit like the illusion of a deity, helps get us through the night...Bob

    • cathylynn99 profile image


      7 years ago from northeastern US

      I don't believe in free will either, but it feels to me as if I've got it anyway, so the illusion of free will and me looking for the win - win are variables you can plug into God's computer when you try to figure out what I'll do tomorrow.


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