Saturday, May 27, 2006

Elusive Present Caught Between Past and Future

Have you ever tried to pin down the present?

Can’t do it, can you? Neither can I, but it’s not for lack of trying.

Stuff that’s about to happen comes at us from the future. Stuff that’s already happened recedes into the past. But, what about the present? You know . . . the stuff that’s happening right now? Uhhh . . . now! I mean . . . now! Okay . . . now! Oh, all right . . . now! Dammit . . . now!

Elusive little bugger, the present.

You still don’t get it, do you? The present doesn’t exist, except in the abstract. There’s only stuff that’s about to happen, and stuff that’s already happened.

Let’s look at this another way. Think of the present as being a moveable interface separating the past from the future. It travels at the speed of time along a timeline that extends from the beginning of time to the end of time. No matter how small you make the time interval that separates the past from the future, no matter how narrow you make the window that defines the boundaries of that illusive and elusive thing you call the present, you can never achieve the present.

Think of the present as being to time as a point is to space. It’s a reference point, a marker that has no bulk, no mass, no weight, and no dimensions.

Does time travel exist? Sure, it does. We’re all time travelers. But, so far, we’re only able to travel in one direction in time—into the future. Unfortunately, our limited time travel is further limited by the speed of time, itself.

We know that the speed of light is 186,282 miles per second, but how fast does time travel? The easy answer is one day, one hour, one minute, one second, one millisecond at a time. A more complicated answer is that it’s relative depending on your own speed in relation to the speed of light, and on your own position in the universe in relation to the clock.

But don’t take my word for it. I’m not Albert Einstein, or Stephen Hawking, or even Herbert George Wells. I’m just someone who’s messing with your mind.

The past! (We can visit it in our memories or in our history books.)

The future! (We can visit it in our imaginations or in our science fiction books.)

That’s all there is. There is no present.

Well, maybe, on your birthday . . .!