“I know what time is, time is a thief. It’ll steal into bed and rob you while you sleep. And you’ll never see it.” Larkin Poe, Mad as a Hatter
I just like the song. Anyway, one of the many weird things I think about is time. What is it? Delmore Schwartz says “Time is the school in which we learn, time is the fire in which we burn.” Still doesn’t get there though does it?
I read an article recently (gotta buy the book!) by physicist Carlo Rovelli in which he claims that there is no such thing as time, that the past and future exist only in our minds.
Thinking about it I see how he is right: time is a construct we have created to bring order to existence, a framework for consciousness to operate in. Relativity is about the relative position and momentum of the observer. Who is the observer though? It is you, it is I. We through our existence allow time to exist.
Fun facts: the earth rotates at 1,000 miles per hour at the equator. We orbit around the sun at 67,000 mph. The solar system orbits the galaxy at 514,000 mph, and the galaxy runs around the universe at 1.4 million mph. But relative to what? To you! You are the observer and point of reference. As I have said before, the future is nothing more than a set of probabilities and the past nothing but facts. Or facts as we understand them. I was listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast where he said “I know it is true because I experienced it.” I had to push pause and consider. And I find fault. Dang… What is “true” is relative to our existing pattern of interpretation and meaning, the filters or lenses (pick your metaphor) through which we experience life. So therefore it does not make it “true”, it only means we experienced something. The experience is valid, the truth of it not so much.
So it is with time; we each experience it in our own way, as your thoughts and memories, your filters are different than mine. So is there some absolute reference point? Ah, the need for absolutes…
I have not read the book yet (I will I promise!) but intuitively and (from my understanding) there is only one absolute and that is the wave function. Probabilities exist and then something happens; the wave function collapses and whatever becomes real. It is real because “it” happened and is now a fact of the past.
If we put on the veil of ignorance – setting aside any preconceived ideas – about time, we (okay, geez, I do) have to consider what “now” is. It is the collapse of the wave function. so if all reality hinges on this it seems to me that there must be some sort of universal wave function that guides all others. The now that exists here in my office is the same now that exists 14 billion light years from here. It is independent of relativity as we discount the observer. In my notes I wrote “spacetime is a relative motion construct.” I also wrote a question: “Are space and time entangled both locally and universally?” Whatever that means. I was down a rabbit hole when I wrote that…
So oh boy and goody, fun things to think about, but what does it matter?! How is this useful at all in my life or yours? This is where I think it gets interesting. For the sake of the illustration I presume that both the present moment and the infinite are two sides of the same coin and both are abstractions – they only exist in math and not in our 3 dimensional physical reality. No not 4! Time does not exist, k?
If I or you can set this premise in stone and reconsider existence (again, for the sake of the illustration) then we can see how anxiety and depression are nothing more than extensions of our false construct of time and the pattern of our interpretation and meaning. You and I are entirely free to choose not to attend to them, knowing they are whatever we want them to be. Schiller’s rewriting shows that we can change our emotional response to the past by adding in new information. We can change our perspective and emotion about the future by first understanding that it is nothing more than a set of likely or unlikely outcomes that may or may not happen, and choose which to attend to, calling B.S. on our emotional mind’s insistence that whatever disaster might happen actually will.
We can learn to access the present moment with skill and practice. The present is all there really is. Rovelli calls the present an “event” and time is nothing more than a never ending string of events. Learn to turn to the “event” and see it for what it is, nothing more and nothing less.
It just takes time…