The subject for today is how the current moment interacts with those past and future. I will digress into Loop Quantum Gravity and the linguistics of the Aymara Indians. For the purposes of this distracted investigation, I will ennumerate two givens:
1) I am the site of the passage of my own time. In other words, the passage of time from past to future, as I experience it, occurs “at” me–where I am, spatially and temporally. If this were a drawing, time would be a straight line, and I would be a dot moving along it.
2) Time is a simple concept. I am making no effort to tamper with traditional ideas of time by saying, for example, that time only moves backward, or that time is not a fluid, contiguous, single entity.
(As it happens, I have come by intriguing arguments for both. Because of the complexity of both of them, the rest of this post will take place within parentheses, reinforcing my tendency to believe that digressions are often more important that the subjects from which they diverged.
(The Aymara, a South American cultural group, reverses the directional sense of time by suggesting that, since the future is unknown and the past known, a more logical idiom would refer to the past as forward, and the future as backward–walking backward into the future.)
This is the Aymara flag:
(This idea creates rifts in our most basic ideas about planning for the future. In the normal sense, we walk forward into a future that is unknown, and either mostly or totally unknowable. As we walk, our backs are to the past that we have created for ourselves. In the Aymara way–a way that has surged into greater prominence in the Andes and Altiplana regions of South American since the popular election of Evo Morales, a member of an indigenous Indian population, to the presidency of Bolivia–we walk backward into the same unknowable future, but all the while staring at the past that we have left behind. One possible political effect of this conceptual difference, as Jose de Cordoba and David Luhnow posit in the Wall Street Journal, is that the new Bolivian state may be seeking to journey backwards to a pre-Colonial state in order to undo the damage that they see as being unnaturally wrought–a position that is hard to argue with.)
(In a side note, the Aymara have a phrase that may be pertinent to addressing some of the issues underlying my motivations for this post; they say that have “been without being.” Take it by itself first, but the traditional explanation for this phrase–in translation, of course–is that it signifies a state of being physically present while spiritually or mentally absent. The Bolivian Foreign minister, himself an Aymara, says that this phrase refers to toiling under oppression by Spanish colonials. I myself am skeptical of political interpretations of folk wisdom.)
(My other digression regards the second half of my second given, which is that I will not attempt to disprove the traditionally held notion that time is a “fluid, contiguous, single entity.” In this digression, I have less to rehash and more to posit.
(Yesterday, sitting outside, I wrote the following: “The purpose of this day is to create continuity between yesterday, which struggles to exist, and tomorrow, which–if I’ve learned anything–will fight me to the death. I have the power of illusory context, which gives me the foolhardy conviction to conceive of a world beyond the present moment. In this sense my power is only to see that my enemy–the present moment–is more temporary than I. The sword is double-edged, of course, because that present moment is not always an enemy. I must outlive both all good things and all bad things that happen to me.
(“I grow a beard to remind myself of yesterday. I wash my clothes to remind myself that tomorrow will come. Though everything I do can only be done now, everything that results happens later.” This disconnect, which means that David A washes his clothes but David B wears them, creates problems with causality. “Without simultaneous causes and effects, connecting distant events,” events that don’t even touch each other in the vast field of time, “through causality becomes a fragile practice, smelling faintly of faith or illusion.”
(I will not attempt to explain the sources that I found on this subject, because I understand only tiny bits and pieces myself. That said, there is a strange coherence to them that I hope is visible to you as well.)
-An amateur message board discussion addressing the question “Is Time Continuous?”
-A scholarly article for non-specialists referred to in the message board discussions, entitled “Quantum Geometry in Action: Big Bang and Black Holes.”
Lastly, I want to include something about Event Horizons. You’ll have to do a little reading of your own here, probably. An Event Horizon is described as the “surface” of a black hole, beyond which no event can affect an observer outside the black hole. Apparently, given certain characteristics of the posited expanding universe, there is a distance beyond which occur events we will never, EVER, be able to observe. Light itself cannot travel from there. In a sense, it’s a different universe within our universe–or an unbreakable partition dividing our universe into exclusive sections. Quite casually, the Wikipedia article for “Event Horizon of the Observable Universe” provides the following equation for determining whether such a partition exists (I don’t understand it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to look at it):
“In this equation, a is the scale factor, c is the speed of light, and t0 is the age of the universe. If , points arbitrarily far away can be observed, and no event horizon exists. If , a horizon is present.”
There you go.
What was I talking about again…?