Saturday, June 15, 2013

The "Now" That Got Away

Ever notice how time stretches?

Evolution, for example, is such a complex process we need BILLIONS of years to get it done. It would sound pretty ridiculous to say that the earth, animals and human beings evolved in 7 days. 
Yes folks, we went from Bang to Bob in a week!  
Not very plausible. But throw a few billion years in there and somehow it sounds more believable. You just can't rush a good thing.
Unless God had something to do with it. But if you tend to go more Big Bang then Big God, you need to stretch time to allow for explosions, dust particles, and random atoms to all settle where they are supposed to and become everything from water to walruses. But time can also be shortened. Christianity, and to some extent Buddhism, tell us to put time in perspective when we encounter suffering here on earth. When it feels long, remember it is short. Stop focusing on this life and your suffering. In relation to eternal life, your time is but a dot on the eternal timeline of life. 
In other words, when time drags on because life is rough, remind yourself how short this life really is and that this is not all there is. 
Bottom line is we talk a lot about time.  
Time is of the essence!
Life is short.

Time flies when you're having fun.
Today felt like a really long day.
Wow, where did the time go?
Or to quote a renowned philosopher:
"Time makes lovers feel like they have something real, but you and me, we know we've got nothing but time."
-Boy George circa 1986 A.D. from the song "Time (Clock of the Heart)"

Time, time, time.
We're so caught up in it, bound by it; we order our lives by it.

A few years ago someone said to me,"You know when you look at your watch, you're not really looking to see what time it is. You're looking to see how long before your next appointment, meeting, or meal." It changed the way I looked at time. I mean how often do you really look at a clock, your watch or cell phone (I through that last one in there so I don't sound old) just to see what time it is?
"Oh, it's 2:25.  Isn't that nice. Glad I checked."
It's more like:
"Oh my gosh, it's 2:25! I got five minutes to get to my meeting!"
With that in mind, here's how my day breaks down:
If I look at my watch before noon, it is to see how far away I am from lunch.
If I look at my watch after noon, it is to see how far away I am from dinner.
Any other time I look at my watch, it is too see how much time I have before the start or end of a meeting.

I read this article the other day in the The New York Review of Books:
Time Regained by James Gleick And it made me re-think time again. The article was a review of the book: Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe by Lee Smolin.
To summarize the article in the most basic way possible it is about whether or not time is real or just an illusion and how that affects scientific study of the universe. According to HG Wells book The Time Machine, time is nothing but a fourth dimension (after length, breadth and thickness.)  Mathematician Hermann Minkowski announced in 1908 that without space, time could not exist. "Henceforth, space by itself, and time by itself are doomed to fade away into mere shadows and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality." in other words, time doesn't exist unless it has space to exist within. Space gives time its meaning.  I was here. Now I am here. Therefore, time has passed.  But does time exist if things or we don't move or change in space? Does time exist on its own? Some scientists and physicists say no. Time is only an illusion.
Lee Smolin, the author of the book Gleick reviews in the article says yes, time does exist: "The fact that it is always some moment in our perception and that we experience that moment as one of a  flow of moments, is not an illusion." Smolin clarifies however, that only the now exists. He says: "All (and only) things that exist now are real. Past things were real once, but have ceased to exist. Future things don’t yet exist; they will become real only when the time comes."
Here a few excerpts that got me thinking:

In an empty universe, would time exist? No, it would not. Time is the measure of change; if nothing changes, time has no meaning. 

No observer has access to the now of another observer. Everything that reaches our senses comes from the past.  

You can try this last one with your friends. Ask them to identify your "now." They will pause, then point and say, "Now!"  To which you reply, "Nope. You missed it. By the time I heard you say "Now!" my now had already passed. Sorry, try again." Allow a look of smugness to appear on your face. After all, you are conducting an important scientific experiment. This could be the start of a long, prosperous career in the field of physics, one that leads you to discover new secrets about the time-space continuum or dark matter.
Or if you prefer, you can simply laugh and say: 
Neener, neener, neeeeener! You can't catch my NOOOOOWWWW!

Whether we stretch time into billions of years of evolution or shorten it to a week and put it in God's hands for creation it is still well, time. It's how we mark our days. It can be spent, but not borrowed. It can be used, but not stored up. It can seem to be longer or shorter depending on whether we are happy or miserable. We can think about it, mark it and remember it-- whether it exists or not, it is a part of being human. Time may be our construct or God's creation depending on how you look at it. It may end permanently at death, when we stop moving in space,or it may never end, as in eternity.Or maybe when we get to the next life, it won't matter? But for now, there are people and places I will see and visit today that I may never get a chance to see or visit again and I want to make time count. Not just for me, but for the ones I meet and the One who holds time in his hands. Even if my time is just a speck of dust on a vast ocean. Even if this moment of perception--my time--has no actual matter, it matters.
Now if you'll excuse me, I just looked at the clock and it is five minutes before my morning run so I gotta go.

-Hope A. Horner, 2013
Follow on Twitter @HopeNote

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