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.
Aylesworth, G. (n.d.). Postmodernism. (E. N. Zalta, Ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2015 Edition). Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2015/entries/postmodernism/
DiSalle, R. (n.d.). Space and Time: Inertial Frames. (E. N. (ed.), Ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2020 Edition). Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2020/entries/spacetime-iframes/
Ellis, G. F. (2005). PHYSICS AND THE REAL WORLD. Physic Today. Retrieved from http://www.mth.uct.ac.za/sites/default/files/image_tool/images/32/Staff/Emeritus_Professors/Prof_George_Ellis/Overview/realworld.pdf
Falk, D. (n.d.). A Debate Over the Physics of Time. Quantamagazine. Retrieved from https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-debate-over-the-physics-of-time-20160719/
Hilgevoord, J. a. (n.d.). The Uncertainty Principle. (E. N. Zalta, Ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition). Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/qt-uncertainty/