I’m kind of a geek. Or maybe that’s a dork or a nerd. From what I hear, there are different definitions for each, but I have yet to sort through which is which or know which one applies to me.
Anyhooo….regardless of my classification on the whole geek/dork/nerd spectrum, I really like to contemplate things that just flat out blow. My. Mind. The more trippy, the better as far as I’m concerned. As a kid I would lay awake at night and try to contemplate how big infinity was – and how far that meant the universe went on if, indeed, it was infinite. As my mind would trip outward farther and farther probing the boundaries of infinity, I would get to a point where I’d realize that I had no concept for what it meant. And even if the universe wasn’t infinite, I further reasoned, surely there had to be something outside of the universe. Was it just a huge ball suspended in a vacuum? Pretty heady stuff for a six year old, let me tell you.
Even today as a 44 year old, it is hard to envision – what lies outside of the realms that we understand – the realms of time and space that we know either experientially, experimentally or theoretically. But it doesn’t stop my far less agile brain from still tripping along, just as I did when I was a six year old lying in bed and contemplating something I could barely understand.
That’s why I love articles and news items that really challenge the universe that I know perceptually. Things that make me wonder if we do, indeed, move only forward through time or question the nature of what our mutual perceived reality is as human beings.
An article in the Huffington Post on August 18 caught my eye. In the article, scientist and theoretician Robert Lanza takes a look at experimental findings that seem to indicate that time is not what we perceive it to be. Instead, the findings on experiments with photons indicate that the causal relationship between the past and the present (where the past affects and leads to the present but the present doesn’t affect and lead to the past) may not exactly be what we perceive. Instead, it appears that the present may just affect the past as much as the past affects the present.
I’ll pause a moment to let you ponder that and then use your best Bill and Ted voice to say, “Whoaaaaaa……..”
If the present can – not just theoretically, but experimentally – affect the past, then what does that say about what we believe we know about the nature of time?
Time as we understand it is divided into three distinct parts – past, present, future. What we know of the past is affected by a few factors – including recorded histories and personal memories. Brain science has shown, however, that what we think we remember about our own individual histories is highly subjective and highly flawed, because we filter personal history through our own world-view, education, perceptions, experiences, self-concept and more. It is why several different people can have several different memories of the exact same event in a shared history. What it comes down to is that there is no true shared history, because each of us perceptually filters our experience and memory of history through our own highly subjective filters. Even in the case of recorded history, these subjective filters come into play. That’s because the person recording the history is still subject to the same biases that we all have. Since history is usually written by the victors, the versions of recorded history that become part of the collective consciousness are still, at their very core, incomplete histories based on the biases and filters of the observers who recorded them.
In other words, in a very real sense, history as we know and understand it is a bunch of hogwash.
The future, on the other hand, is the vague unknown. I don’t care how psychic you are, there is no way of projecting a future with 100% certainty. Too many random factors come into play that affect outcomes. The future can’t be real because we just don’t know how each of the millions of random bits will come together.
That leaves us with the present. Something we can surely rely on, right? Unfortunately, we can’t even really rely on the present as much of a yardstick for reality, because those same subjective filters that come into play as we narrate our histories also affect how we experience our current realities. If we could shut our minds up and merely be in the moments of pure experience, we might come closer to approximating an experience of objective reality, but the second that pure moment of experience had past, our individual filters would immediately kick into spin mode once again, and we’re left with an inaccurate memory of that moment of pure experience.
As I think about this stuff, I become the six year old kid again – unable to wrap my mind around what is real, what is perceived and what is purely illusory. And for me, it leaves me in an interesting place. While I elect to buy into my perception of what is real most of the time in order to keep my bearings, the truth is that I have no clue what reality is. For all I know, everything that I am experiencing right now is merely a projection of my mind – this keyboard, this chair in which I am sitting, the noisy ankle-biter dogs who are running rampant through the house playing – it could all just be some huge illusory mind @#$% that I am creating in order to give myself a solid sense of reality.
It’s a concept that not only boggles my mind – it excites it. Because within all of this, I can see endless possibility. What I don’t know can fill up that big, infinite universe I used to try to envision when I was a kid, and I’m pretty sure that you could fit what I do, actually know 100% without hesitation on one of the many angels that fits on the head of a pin.
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