When the DeLorean vanishes into tire tracks of flames in the 1985 classic Back to the Future, the California license plate left spinning on the pavement is emblazoned with “OUTATIME”. Having accelerated to 39.3395 meters per second (88 mph) the entire car was able to exploit the 0.10717 second wormhole opened by the lightning strike to blast into the future without becoming the victim of a relativity Cuisinart. Why time travel involves extreme cryodynamics (the car reconstitutes covered with ice) is something I’ll save for another blog as dynamic temporal translocation could be more logically considered an isothermal reality devoid of friction or other exothermic physics. On this 8th of August (88), I’d like to take the TIME to examine and refute the illusion of TIME.
Humans have reportedly observed movements of stars, the sun and the moon and have used these as indicators of auspiciousness. Carvings in stone, slits that allow the passage of lights during equinox and solstice moments, orientations of rocks and buildings, geometric projections of precession of events, all suggest some awareness of “time” in the human narrative. Comically, the concept of one second (which for those of you burning to know, is “the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between to hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom”) and the notion of linear measure – the meter (also based on caesium 133) – are but two of Einstein’s legacies which have given us the illusion of the linear progression of time.
For several weeks, I’ve encountered innumerable conversations, interactions, and high order social frictions triggering nearly incapacitating pain derived entirely from the illusion of time. Dreams of a future, legacies of a past, the vindication of hours of training for the moment of Olympic glory, the futility of living based on aging, nostalgia, optimism, pessimism – all of these bandits robbing humanity of its authentic experience in favor of the elixir of “the other”. Benedict De Spinoza’s Ethics courageously challenged the illusion of time when he stated that, “By substance I understand what is in itself and is conceived through itself, that is, that whose concept does not require the concept of another thing, from which it must be formed.” He also states that, “In nature there is nothing contingent,” suggesting that the only thing that exists simply exists. Centuries later, one of my favorite philosophers, Karl Popper expanded on these notions when examining the concept of human temporal and causal obsessions. He argued that there is no possibility of apprehending all of the conditions which manifest the present and, as such, neither an explanation of the “past” nor a prognostication of a “future” is viable in any way. “Individual human action or reaction can never be predicted with certainty, therefore neither can the future.” (The Poverty of Historicism).
In the past several years, the economy (and society) has suffered the fatal effects of its implicit addiction to temporal illusions. Debauched on the addiction to time as a linear, progressive construct we insist that ontological and algebraic ‘laws’ dictate explanation and prediction. Manipulate supply and demand, manipulate interest rates or relative employment, manipulate wage and price ratios and magically you have a managed economy. Only it doesn’t work out that way. Resource providers impoverished by predatory extractors rise up in revolt shutting down the mine and the mill – at times killing the operators or the opposition faction. Central banks pump fractional currency into economies only to watch asset values bloat while real monetary flows constrict. Progressive Regressionists (those who explain causality through their own myopic observational reductionism) are convinced of model adequacy based on post hoc rationalization only to find that none of their models hold in the next moment. “We value most what we measure best,” becomes an aspirational justification for experts to peddle worthless advice to public policymakers bent on placating the masses long enough to feed their egotistical ideals of incumbent power.
As I celebrated an auspicious night at the Sydney Opera House listening to the Australian Youth Orchestra’s breathtaking rendition of Gustav Mahler’s Titan Symphony No. 1 in D I was absorbed with the contours of the genius of the third movement. The complexity of rhythms weaves a tapestry punctuated with the staccato of the cuckoo birds call (played on clarinet) and to decipher the meter of the piece is to the rational mind as elusive as the most complex metaphysical construct is to the nascent philosopher. In fact, what makes the piece so beautiful is not its meter but its movement. And while physics will tell you that motion is a change in position with respect to time, this definition is constrained by artifice. The acoustical feast that Mahler serves suspends time and was described by him in its modified score as the depiction of, “a Spring without end… the awakening of nature in the early morning.”
A Spring without end. Idigna. The Mesopotamian ideal of an artesian water source that ever springs and flows ceaselessly. Inanna’s dance of fertility which acknowledged the persistent, generative, infinite interaction between lovers, land, and life. The effortless recognition that gratitude-filled moments of recognition of the mystery that is the persistence of life and love gain nothing from a “past” and offer nothing to a “future”. In fact, what they do is heighten the emotional and observational intelligence in each moment to more perfectly perceive the ever present, always in flux, phase of NOW. Has your life ever improved by justifying or rationalizing a “past”? Have you ever lost a moment of Present based on your obsession with a yet unlived and unmanifest “future”? If the answer to either of these is yes, stop. Recognize that if you’re reading this, you’ve made it to here, now. Be grateful. Now think about all that you steward – your life, your love, your resources, your encouragement, your touch, your generosity – and find a person with whom to share it. Don’t look for them. Don’t wait. Act NOW. And in the acting of every now in its perfection, recognize that the only pain you feel is your choice to hold onto time. Step out of time and step into unconstrained living. You may be surprised that it doesn’t hurt and you just might heal.
BTW, I’ve included two articles from the 1987 Electronics Today which will demonstrate that the more we think that time is a linear function, the more we willfully ignore our own evidence to the contrary. Think about China trade, the French DCNS contract to the Australian Navy, and the recent expansion of the F-35 program, and ask yourself if anything has changed?