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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Musing on Time

I sat in the weak winter sun today for over an hour. My eyes were closed but yet I sensed the countryside around me. I heard the sound of crows in nearby trees and the cries of the gulls over the creek. A bee had appeared out of season and was buzzing around the flower pot beside my chair. I started to muse on some of the ideas that I had been striving to write about in my latest novel. In particular I struggled over the concept of time. It became clear to me that time really only exists as the present - the continuous present of the living. The future does not and will not exist except as a construct of the past. The past has existed but it represents a part of spacetime that can only be reached by the complete reversal of the expansion of the entire universe. We cannot go to the past without carrying the whole of existence with us and in so doing we actually destroy our present. Time travel to the past is theoretically impossible. Time travel to the future has had many outings in the musing of those acquainted with Special and General Relativity. If I set off in a rocket at a speed close to the speed of light and return after some time then I expect to see the earth in a distant future to the time I set off. The flaw in this thinking is that I am not going into my own future but only that of what would be a very distant earth. For me time is always the same.
Out of all this I see that time is just the continuous present. The memory of the past has an impact and causal relation to the present but there is no memory of a future that doesn't and will never exist. The continuous present is orchestrated by the laws of science both dynamical, physical and biological. Our acquired understanding of these laws that we have gleaned from analysis of our memories, allows us as cognitive beings to shape our present by using these laws to change our otherwise determine path. The non-living parts of being are forever bound determinately by these same laws.
The goals of science and philosophy are to understand these laws to better shape our present.

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