Illusions of time, illusions of space
Separation in space produces the illusion – or perhaps it would be better to say the condition – of separation, of individuality, of non-belonging, of difference, in a way that would not be possible otherwise. The guys upstairs once said that there is separation non-physically in a way but not as it is in the physical world. They suggested, as a rough analogy, that we think how our world would be if we were all continuously and unpredictably teleporting though both time and space. Nothing would seem as solid as definite or as sequential to you as everything does now. (It is only an analogy but not so bad a one.)
And as space produces the illusion of separation, so time produces the effect of delayed consequences. Time, in the way we experience it, sorts out everything just as space does. Last Tuesday is so definitely a different space from a given date three years ago that you could (and do) stack different people and things in the same space and different time and not have them collide.
That is: In space-time, you can be in one place at one time. Two people can be in the same place but not at the same time; they can be in the same time but not the same place, but they can’t be in the same place at the same time: This ought to tell you that space and time are functions of each other. They are the same thing seen slightly differently. (Now notice – when I say it one way it is almost obvious; when I say the same thing another way, it is so strange as to be scarcely comprehensible.)
Time is not different from space, in that each sorts out the world around us. But time is experienced radically differently than space, of course: Nobody is frog-marching you in space, inch by inch by inch in one direction your whole life.
People sometimes say that on the other side there is “no time.” To the extent that they mean anything, they mean that the other side is not subject to that unvarying tyranny that moves us along. That is true, sort of, in the same way that it is true, sort of, that the other side has no space. Neither statement is exactly true. They have time, they have space – how else could they structure experience? But time and space there are not what they seem to us. They are real limitations, but they are neither prisons nor constrictions. Try to envision a life without limitations and you will end up with fog. But there is all the difference in the world (so to speak) between their world and ours.
No, that isn’t how to put it. It is the same world. Canada – the physical Canada – exists “there” as it does “here,” because neither we nor they are someplace else! The non-physical components of the physical world are – right here! Why would you think they are elsewhere? It isn’t even true that we can’t perceive it; only that we can’t perceive it in the same way or using the same faculties that we do the physical world – I might almost say the rest of the physical world.
I know that this is a radically different thought, so I will try to say it carefully. The non-physical world is right “here” with us, and right “there” with them. How far do you think it is from physical Baltimore to non-physical Baltimore? And why would you think that Baltimore, or any city, doesn’t have its non-physical equivalent? What do you think we build on earth, anyway? But because we misunderstand time, we think that things “pass away” on earth and do so presumably in the non-physical earth. Not true in either case – but it never was the way we assume it to be.
Where is ancient Rome of, say November 13, 250 b.c.? That world on that day is where it always was and always will be. They on their side can “go” there at will; we on our side cannot (normally). This is the chief difference between their experience of the world and ours. It is a simple concept, but foreign to our usual ways of understanding. I am trying to express it in simple terms devoid of jargon.
When a moment of time “passes” here – that moment does not cease to exist: We cease to exist in it. We pass. We have been carried smoothly to the next moment of time. If you are standing still for five such moments, it looks to you that you moved in time and not in space. But it could equally truly be said that you moved in time-space. That is, moment one exists next to moment two, and you moved from one to two. Then you moved to moment three, then four – and your movement is continuous, predictable and not under your control, so when you get to moment five you assume that the “previous” moments – that is, previously experienced moments – have somehow ceased to exist.
Your experience tells you that we hop from ice-floe to ice-floe across the river of time, and that each previous ice-floe ceases to exist as soon as we jump from it, and – even more startling, more hazardous – the next ice floe doesn’t even come into existence until we land on it! If you wanted to rest at any given floe you couldn’t, not only because you don’t know how to do it, but because what will you do when the floe presumably ceases to exist in the next moment? Thus, we never can pause, nor can we do a thing about the situation except to jump in one direction rather than another.
What a situation! If it were a true description, we’d be in a pretty bad fix – and this is how many people do experience their lives. But there’s a better way to see it, that will relieve the insecurity and remove the below-surface panic. There is no need for terror, any more than on any other pleasure cruise.
The guys put it this way:
“What if we told you that the ice-floes do not cease to exist just because you jump from them (or, more closely, are smoothly catapulted off them)? And what if we told you that the icebergs ‘to come’ are not uncreated but actually exist, as common sense would tell you, were we in a strictly physical-geography metaphor? And what if we told you that we on ‘our side’ – which is to say you on our side — visit the terrain however we please, rather than being tied to a conveyor belt? Disregard for the moment the fact that you can’t see how that could be; hold the theoretical possibility. All you are doing – all you need do – is creating a space in your mind for a new way of seeing things.”
The guys say further:
“It is the nature of the physical world – and by `world’ we mean not one planet but all of physical creation – to lead its inhabitants in experience. You experience one time, one space, then movement certainly to another time, perhaps to another place. You may move spatially in any way you can figure out how to do: forward, back, right, left, up, down. To Cleveland, to Greenland, to Mars, wherever. The restrictions on movement are in the nature of obstacles. Overcome the obstacle – whether it be sheer distance, or the nature of the terrain, or whatever – and you may move there. Temporally, however you may move and must move in only one direction – ‘forward’ – and you seemingly cannot vary the speed or direction in which you are carried. In fact, because you are carried, it seems to you that you have no control whatever over your movement in time.”
Now, isn’t that a fair representation of our plight on earth? Freedom in three dimensions, no freedom – not even freedom to stop! – in the fourth. Then they improved upon it, returning to their statement that “Canada exists” over there too. That didn’t mean a sort of Disneyland version of Canada for people to play pretend in. Rather, it meant that Canada here and Canada there are extensions of the same thing, just as we extend “over there” and they extend “over here.”
Bear in mind, spatial and temporal analogies continually sneak in between the lines. It is a continuing distortion in these discussions. Given that language reflects our concept of reality, how could it be otherwise?
They did note, one time, that the only language we use that does not reflect our concept of reality is mathematics, which has forced scientists to see the world closer to how it truly is, rather than through the time-space distortions and illusions. Scientists don’t necessarily like what they are forced to conclude, and many of them can continue to do so only because they divorce it from their daily lives keeping theory rigidly separated from application, but the logic of the mathematics leads them and they follow. This is because mathematics treats time and space differently than any other language does, or (at present) can.
More next Friday.