Monthly Archives: November 2021

Notes: Musings on Time and the Other

I will probably be adding some follow up notes on the previous post, Musings on Time and the Other, for some time because I think I crammed a lot into that post. I think more needs to be developed for clarity and for my musing desires.

In the previous post, I discussed the Block Universe. The Block Universe is an accepted concept in some of the main traditions of Einstein’s revolutionary paradigm. It is a static, deterministic acceptance of Einstein’s referential frames of reference. It also may seem to counter some of the heterogenous pluralities in temporality and the other which I likened to music. This deserves to get fleshed out a little more.

The idea of space-time is a radical and non-intuitive concept of reality. It continually requires an effort against ‘common sense’ which prefers a more historic narrative of absolute time and space in which time is one dimensional and space is three dimensional and each are radically different. This could not be further from the truth. Time and space are the SAME thing. ‘Thing’ is a rich historic concept which extends all the way back to the Latinization of the Greek notion of phusis (physics). The Romans translated ousia as substance but the ancient Greeks notion of ousia was much closer to our notion of ‘being’. For the ancient Greeks, time and space had not been separated into distinct notions of substance which ‘common sense’ thinks presently. However, the seeds of this transformation were certainly in various schools of the ancient Greek world. Time and space belonged to what we think today as being. This is why Aristotle could write of phusis and what the Latin world called meta- phusis (metaphysics) without thinking about them as radically separate in the notation as “meta” but simply as further investigations of first causes into ‘isness’ or reality as we deem it.

In the notion of space-time, we are beginning to return again to a unity of time and space. Contemporaneously in this radical physics which began in the 19th century and culminated in the early 20th century with Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, philosophy also systematically dismantled a lot of the absolute subject/object dichotomy as abstract and artifacts of Newton’s paradigm of absolute time and space. Actually, this began with Kant and Hegel in the mid-18th century. In effect, philosophy has once again rejoined phusis and ousia into Aristotle’s notion of being. Presently, philosophy has even taken steps further which are not in the scope of my current concern. So how can a Block Universe have anything in common with the dynamic universe I wrote about in the previous post?

One of the concerns of post-modern philosophy is narrative and what gets marginalized in the narrative but remains essential to the dominate narrative which Derrida calls logocentrism. Like it or not we have narratives which aid us in taking on the task of illuminative the difficult notion of space-time. The Block Universe is a way of highlighting the spatial aspects of time. First, there is no referential frame in the sense of an absolute standard frame. All spatial-temporal frames of space-time are relative to each other – period. The Block Universe prefers spatial adjectives over temporal adjectives. In each of these frames, physics has made extraordinary achievements in accuracy, prediction, and repeatability. This is why we can send satellites to Pluto and beyond using much of its thrust in the form of gravity. We understand the physics of these referential frames exceedingly well.

There are a few physical constants which physics has high confidence in; that they do not change in what we understand of the universe currently. These constants are:

The speed of light c, which defines the unit of space given the unit of time.

Planck’s constant, , which defines the unit of mass-energy in terms of the unit of inverse time.

Newton’s constant, which defines the unit of mass-energy in terms of the unit of space (and in conjunction with the other two, fixes a unique unit of mass, length, and time, the Planck units)

Boltzmann’s constant, which defines the Kelvin in terms of the Joule.

electromagnetic constants, which define the unit of charge

Since these purely numeric constants emerged shortly after the Big Bang, they seem to have been the same since. However, nothing can be said about whether there really was a Big Bang and not a Big Bounce for instance and how they emerged as evolving or eternally present in some pseudo philosophical-religious fashion which physics want nothing to do with. Physics also thinks that the Planck constant (6.62607015 × 10-34) is the ratio of the energy of a photon to the frequency of a photon. Nothing smaller than this is conceivable in Physics.

String theory which plays once again on my music analogy in the previous post is physics on the Planck level. It is currently inconceivable how it could ever be proven but remains as a mathematical explanation of reality on the smallest possible level. Getting back to the Block Universe and referential space-time frames, these constants have been proven to establish physics as we currently understand it. They have pragmatic use but cannot give us any information about reality other than that. Quantum gravity is an undertaking which may revolutionize these constants and physics and unite the quantum world with the macro-space-time world but that remains to be determined. The Block Universe are referential frames where the constants are highly reliable.

The Block Universe has referential realities which are dynamic and mind-boggling, but time is not a ‘thing’ which connects these spatially frames as if to harken back to the absolute difference of space and time. When we say it is static and deterministic, we are referring to the known laws of physics and these physical constants which determine their behavior. So, space-time is static and deterministic in this sense. However, the notions of static and deterministic are reflections of currently known behavior and not statements of absolute fact. When we bring in the quantum world and its absolutely inherent, precise unpredictability we are left with an as of yet indeterminate distance between the predictable certainty of the macro universe and the uncertainty of the quantum universe. Additionally, dark energy is thought to comprise 73% of all mass and energy in the universe and dark matter is thought to comprise another 23% of the universe leaving only 4% to comprise everything else where our high confidence in physics resides. There is also speculation that parallel universes would have no obligation whatsoever to our known physics. There may be endless radically different varieties of physics.

When it comes to the Big Bang and Black Holes, the magnitudes of energy and mangling of conceivability is so extreme, we have likely come to the edge of our presently knowable physics. Singularities are deemed by most physicists as mathematical hyphens which hold the place for something yet to be determined.

My musings are aimed at how narrative to some extent fashions and determines the boundary conditions of our paradigms. I understand why we think of referential frames as having a high amount of certainty in macro-physics. However, I wonder if we have made ‘discretes’ or quanta out of referential frames which may be a bit artificial and abstract. We know, as I mention in my musings, that each of us is wrapped in a physical and measurable space-time bubble which is a result of our mass and certainly shapes our lived time and space AND conditions our historic and linguistic narratives. While I see the usefulness of referential frames in macro-physics, I see no reason why these frames cannot be further divided into quanta and minutia of ‘frames’ which at some point show the macro-frame boundaries as artificial and pragmatically imposed AND may further obfuscate a foundationless footing of other possibilities which are not essentially discrete. It may be that their usefulness has more to do with a pragmatic narrative than a physical reality.

While physics has had a much longer tradition of thinking energy in terms of macro-observations, we are now faced with its radical alterity on the micro-quantum reality. If we stick with the narrative, we are faced with two absolutely dichotomous realities – the large and the small. Some might even suggest phallic but let’s not go there. One avenue of investigation has not so much to do with energy as it has to do with space and time and how energy alone can account for it. With the Higgs Bosom we have completed our current idea of the Standard Model (quantum mechanics). Somehow the Higgs is thought to give mass to what otherwise would travel at the speed of light and be changeless and eternal in the ancient idea of phusis and ousia – the unmoved mover. It seems in physics what we are left with are pragmatic but artificially imposed narratives on referential frames which somehow can be transformed into quantum uncertainties and massless particles OR we must simply admit reality is schizophrenic.

Whatever space-time is seemingly has some inherent distance to ‘stuff’, ‘things’ and, really, anything we commonly think of as solid. Actually, ‘solid’ is a panacea we use from historic narrative to make us think we know something fundamental about the sea of reality we live and breathe and have our being in. It may be that in various levels of transformation we can no longer ascribe reality to the subject of an object but have to think of it as much more interactive and even question the fundamental distinction of idea and reality. This is not to suggest reality is whatever we think it is since what we commonly think seems to have a lot more to do with historic narrative and language than some ‘real’ X which we assume cannot be questioned with any seriousness. Space is not just an abstract notion of physics but may also be the place where we find an end to place as represented by the possibility of the impossibility of death as our ownmost in Heideggerian terms or homelessness, inability to be able, radical alterity in Levinas’ thinking.

What we are left with is what Hesiod tells us to start with, the void, the yawning gap. Rather than a ‘reality’ home, we are left with a question which can find no answer except in how we gracefully and ethically live in its shadow OR impose our feigned sense of power on illusions of grandeur which fade as mists in eternity. When we welcome the stranger, the unknown, we welcome ourselves, our plight with beauty which remains as questions of wonder and obligation. Our place-lessness coincides with a space and time which we cannot own, dominate, or have power over but invites us to decide indebtedness and desire for unfathomable other.


(n.d.). Retrieved from


Musings on Time and the Other

Generally unbeknownst to many, language and history have given us cliff notes versions of temporality. Assumptions given in this fashion can and does become absolutizing even, ‘self-evident’ and innate. Can we think perhaps, in some sense, apriori analytic judgements in Kant’s vernacular. They may even reproduce themselves in the lexicon of logic. However, as Einstein and Husserl demonstrated in great detail, time is not static. The sense of temporality as static, sensed presence or reality is what Husserl calls Präsenzzeit. It is a historical derivation we deem as common sense or ‘reality’. In everyday life we assume clock time is absolute. In this notion, physics and lived-life proceed from a universal, clock machine. Time is neatly divided in linear ‘now’ moments which uniformly proceed from a past to a present to a future. It turns out that in the early 20th century, this notion was uniformly dismissed as ‘real’ or accurate in physics and philosophy.

To start with, there is never a time which exists apart from our bodily sensation of time. The idealization of time as a uniform ‘reality’ is not a reality of physics but a reality of a specific history. This particular history can be traced all the way back to the classic Greek notion of nun or presence as the now moment which was a moving image of eternity. For the Greeks, eternity was not thought as we think of it as endless time but, curious enough, more like current physics which thinks the speed of light where nothing changes or as Aristotle tells us eternity never moves or changes as the unmoved mover (ὃ οὐ κινούμενον κινεῖ, or more colorfully: ho ou kinoúmenon kineî, literally ’that which moves without being moved’). An abstraction distorts and mis-represents reality as something which it is not. As lived experience no one has ever experienced time as an abstract notion of presence which is a moving image of the changeless; more widely thought as a linear now-moments in the idea of clock time (a historic, mechanical notion of the flux of time).

Furthermore, time is not uniform but widely stratified and layered in our experience of it. Our bodies have a dynamic stretch of temporality as we age, we become ill, have varying health conditions. Our experience of time also varies with mood such as anxiety or excitement. We tend to psychologize these notions away as some aberration of time in order to protect the sanctity of our historic idealization of temporality. We also may rationalize our idealization as ‘scientific’, but the fact is that this notion of time has to do with Newton and classic physics, absolute time and space, which finally met its end in Einstein. Did you know that you age more on top a mountain than in a valley because of the mass of the earth? Also, moving faster relative to another frame of reference causes you to age slower. Each one of us has an absolutely unique but measurable space-time bubble which enshrouds us our entire lifetime. We are also comingled with other temporalities such as geological, relativity of space-time in frames of perspective, and even biological in all the varying biology of our bodies – cells dying and being replaced, youth, middle age, old age all mark epochs in out biological time. We also experience the time of the other which intervenes and interrupts in our deliberations and moods – our temporalized affects. Have you ever experienced a disruption of your dismal mood when your friend showed up?

All of space-time is tossed by turbulent collisions of massive black holes resulting in cacophonous distortions of space-time, silently playing through being, our being, in spatial-temporal variations. Variations where awareness remains oblivious except for the proprioceptive stretch of time over epochs (movements) of lived-life. Since time and space are the same phenomenon, can we assume just as space can be traversed in many directions so can time? Worm holes in space would be ‘time machines’ which would alter space temporally to allow vast distances to be traveled in vastly shorter amounts of time. Nothing could ever be seen as entering a block hole as time would stop, from our perception, at the event horizon but not from the perspective of the object entering it. Physics tells us that at the accretion disk of a black hole time and space are so radically twisted that the chronology we expect from a past to a future, cause and effect, would be so radically jumbled such that time events would be more like an unassembled puzzle without what we would think as continuity. It would even be possible to leave a place before you entered it. Furthermore, at the singularity of a black hole, all motion and change would cease reminding us of Aristotle’s unmoved mover.

In Quantamagazine, Dan Falk tells us,

Einstein’s masterpiece, the general theory of relativity, and the Standard Model of particle physics. The laws that underlie these theories are time-symmetric — that is, the physics they describe is the same, regardless of whether the variable called “time” increases or decreases. Moreover, they say nothing at all about the point we call “now” — a special moment (or so it appears) for us, but seemingly undefined when we talk about the universe at large. The resulting timeless cosmos is sometimes called a “block universe” — a static block of space-time in which any flow of time, or passage through it, must presumably be a mental construct or other illusion. (Falk)

The standard acceptance of the block universe understands reality as static. Time as flowing through now-moments is a ‘metal construct’ or, for the purposes of this post, perhaps we can think of a shared historic narrative of a particularly occidental text taken as ‘reality’. The block universe are referential frames which have no implied priorities as that would imply a kind of mystic frame overlayed on vastly different temporal-spatial regionalities. In effect, the block universe denies any such thing as a ‘now’. It is deterministic and denies any absolute construction of cause and effect.

Of course, there are competing and contrarian proponents of such a deterministic reality. Entropy has been employed as a linear, deterministic temporalization to support a progression of time. One physicist I find interesting is George Ellis who advocates an evolving block universe (EBU). In such a scheme the boundary conditions of a block-universe can be thought as a surface where the “the indefiniteness of the future changes to the definiteness of the past”. So, the present can be thought as this surface boundary which expands the universe itself into an indeterminate future. So, while all the temporal cards can be shuffled in any temporal fashion the cards themselves can be increased by the uncertainty of quantum mechanics, specifically Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. In this way he attempts to unite quantum mechanics and relativity. Note that this whole debate has nothing to do with psychological perceptions or subjective perspectives but empirical observations on the nature of reality. This further exemplifies why the absolute space and time of Newton, the dualism of Kants noumena (thing-in-itself), and the startling ramifications of relativity can no longer be thought in abstract terms such as subject/object, mind/body, spirit/matter, and even nature/nurture. Those distinctions coinciding with physics in the 20th century naively deny philosophical confluences perhaps starting in Kant through Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and postmodern thinkers who make such implacable boundaries something other than self-evident.

The evolving spatial-temporal truths of radically, heterogenous philosophical realities in our era have little to do with the history of substance and things, whether in-themselves or not, but more to do with multifarious, intimately interactive, flows through and in us as music.

Gravitational waves from the big bang are still surging space-time, swelling with undulating crescendos to monster fortissimo receding into quiescent, glistening, pianissimo of space-time. Reality seems to engage us as song where both listener and listened dance together as emergent reciprocity which can not be one or the other but co-determined and determining in the dance of spirits. The voices of our musical dance have more to with what has largely been in lost in modern languages. However, ancient languages all over the world including ancient Greece had what linguists and, my friend Dr. Wendell, Kisner call the middle-voice.

Space and time are not static but widely stratified on many different levels. It is more like a silent symphony where there are many parts all playing simultaneously from which we draw a ‘whole of meaning’, as sense of uniformity in the movement of widely varying harmonies and melodies. The meaning we draw from the symphony makes it something other than pure random noise. We find ourselves drawn to the flow of its movements. Movements in a symphony have a stretch of quality not just tempo. It is wide ranging from ecstatic to depressing. We draw meaning from this incalculable variety. In the same way, time and space is the movement of meaning for living humans. We draw from its deep wells. These wells are called history and language. We did not create these wells. They are not merely subjective as if to imply they are extraneous or the product of an imagined hermetically sealed self we think as ‘I’. And, as Nietzsche, prophesied, be careful, “If you stare too long into the abyss, then it stares back at you.” The void can no longer remain cacophonous but bows to the determinations you bring to it and the ones it brings to you as moments which you create and are created by.

We should give place to our capacity for history and language as an incredible but widely varying diversity from which meaning and themes can be derived. These phenomena filter the radical alterities which we are into uniformities which separate musicality from mere noise or more precisely make impossible diversities into capabilities for actions and movements. However, the danger of this marvelous ability which we are is to think of them in terms of self-authorship, homogenous origin, absolute knowledge and thus: power.

Reality as such is a wonderous idea which overflows itself and, in this way, reminds us of minuets which long for more in their entrancements. We are not authors of reality. Reality is not homogenous. It has no home or origin in which it resides as eternity or God. It is without origin and in this sense chaotic. However, we draw meaning from what we name reality as we do from music. Language and history and have no single author. Their authors have long since passed into the uniformity of words and ideas. Even the Hebrew God tells us after the fall that “now man has become like one of US”.

Reality is historic shorthand for the absolute other as it pervades me and my assumed ownership of it. In this sense we are creators of the meaning we derive from it and what it endows with us. However, when we artificially try to impose universal meaning to reality, we position ourselves in opposition to it. Reality again and again wants to refresh us with its own refrain in our entrancement with it. Likewise, the other – our wife, a stranger, a child interrupts our linguistic monologue. We hear another song from the other which, with a still small voice, asks us to listen, to take note, to give place to another moment, another movement. When we move with what moves us, we dance with the gods and take leave of static abode which promises security but only delivers perpetual demise in reduction, stagnation and meaningless repetition and death. The muses invite us to sing in the symphonic voices of others which have no relation to animate and inanimate but a necromancy which our many deaths fail to author, own, or extinguish.

Further reading…


Aylesworth, G. (n.d.). Postmodernism. (E. N. Zalta, Ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2015 Edition). Retrieved from

DiSalle, R. (n.d.). Space and Time: Inertial Frames. (E. N. (ed.), Ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2020 Edition). Retrieved from

Ellis, G. F. (2005). PHYSICS AND THE REAL WORLD. Physic Today. Retrieved from

Falk, D. (n.d.). A Debate Over the Physics of Time. Quantamagazine. Retrieved from

Hilgevoord, J. a. (n.d.). The Uncertainty Principle. (E. N. Zalta, Ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition). Retrieved from