Firstly, I apologize for the possibly non-coherent comments below. I often have moments where I am very cognizant of the passage of time and others where I completely lose track of it. I find these time periods both rewarding and preposterously confusing, hence the gobbldygook to follow.
My brain has several different operating modes. Most of the time I exist here in what we call the present (as I type these words…of course this will soon become ‘near past’ and at some nebulous point in the future, turn into ‘distant past’). Quite often I can have moments in time where I live in the distant past. My trouble-spots are the near-future and near-past, and I very often get them all confused with the present. For example, now that I’ve reached the end of this paragraph, the words written at the very beginning are in the near-past.
I suppose that’s easy enough to understand. But it gets weird if you think about it a lot.
I can also spend time in the distant future (this is less common).
For me, the confusion comes mostly from the past, which I’ll soon discuss. The problems I have with the near future are completely unrelated (right now) with the problems I have with the past. I have a pretty severe case of (diagnosed) ADD and planning/staying on task have become enormously difficult for me to work around here in 2020 where my structure of work and societal interaction were completely eliminated. Unfortunately with the pandemic still in full swing, finding treatment locally is nearly impossible in a place where it is already difficult to find any meaningfully competent healthcare providers of nearly any kind. But that stuff is boring and I’m not going to spend any more time on that.
While the distant past is considered by most people to be far away from the present, I do not think of the passage of time in this way, and neither does science. But the general public doesn’t seem to show much interest and really, why would they other than as a kind of intellectual exercise? Understanding how time works scientifically does absolutely nothing for us as a species except for perhaps theoretical physicists and other scattered semi-related disciplines like actual rocket scientists. I am not educated enough to explain the particulars, but a fellow by the name of Carlo Rovelli wrote a book entitled ‘The Order of Time’ that probably comes closest to explaining how I’ve felt about time for a while now.
Here is how I view time.
Imagine all of existence, the ‘history of everything’ was written in a single book. The life and description of every single atom, particle of matter, or energy detailed from the beginning of existence in this universe until it’s very death so that not a thing was missing. An obviously impossible task, other than for the sake of this exercise, but it works here. Now, in order for the universe to actually happen, the reader must read the entire book as it happens….in much less time than it takes to snap your fingers. In that amount of time, everything that will ever happen….happens. The very first moments of time, the dinosaurs, the lives of our ancestors and everything that will come after we are all gone…all come and go in that minuscule and probably scientifically impossible to measure fraction of ‘time’.
While the idea of detailing this ‘complete history of everything’ is preposterous, the actual doing of it seemed not to be so hard, because that’s what happened (again, science). Condensed into a simple example, what I am doing now and what I did yesterday, last week, last year or back in 1973 when I was five, even what I do until the moment of my death essentially happened at the exact same time.
The important part here is ‘essentially’, because without that word, we would all be living in a universe without free will. Without causality, we’d all just be coasting and I’m not one of those people that is willing to go that far when talking about the nature of time. I’m not sure exactly how it works or why humans and seemingly all other life forms and even non-sentient objects seem to obey laws of nature when it comes to the passage of time. I suppose I’ll have to leave that to the scientists, but I do think about it all of the time and it bugs me to no end.
So there is our universe, a book on a shelf with a fully written tale between it’s covers that exists as long as the person reading it is immersed in the pages. In this version, the universe unfolds as quickly as the reader allows. In different versions, perhaps computer simulations can write longer and longer scenarios in an effort to condense the passage of time in laboratory settings. A SIM Universe as richly detailed as our own.
Maybe (probably) it’s already happened?
My brain gets all fuzzy when I dwell on the subject too long, but the good news is that thinking about all of this has allowed me to create a new character in my comic universe with a time problem much like mine, only much more enhanced. The character will be a little like Lemire’s Colonel Weird, though I came up with my time-problematic character independently of his and he will actually be quite different in the end. My character will live something like a four week period all at once and be unable to tell what is past/present/future because it exists all at once for him (or nearly all at once). I don’t know if my writing is clever enough to execute this kind of character in a satisfactory way, but it seems like something fun to try.
Anyway, sorry for the absence. It continues to be a challenging year. C’est La Vie.