The Elusive Nature of the Now

Nadya Johnson

Joined January 2009

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Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?


We know there is a past ~ moments which have happened ~ and a future, moments which have yet to happen. Or we think we do… it seems that way. And we seem imprisoned in this clock-work Universe, where time transports us ever-onward like a river always flowing toward the future. Consciously, we exist only in a state of Now along the route.

But is this how it really works? How long is Now? The moment you say or think the word, it’s over with. Does it last a second?

A trillionth of a second? Less?

Is there any length to it at all?

This is a trickier question than it seems! The purpose of “now” from our human vantage-point, is to bridge the gap between the past and future. But that presupposes there’s a gap to bridge! If the “now” actually takes time to happen, what part if it is in the past and what part of it is in the future?

Philosophers and physicists have wrestled with the issue for centuries. Perhaps we don’t have the science yet to measure anything as small as “now.” Perhaps the idea that time has to “happen” is a misconception, and there is no steady march of “nows” at all. And if the past just melts into the future with no true gap between the two, what then is the distinction?

Einstein proved with the theory of Relativity that nothing really happens “now.” Any star in the sky could be gone even though we see it! Pick one. Depending on its distance, it could have blown up centuries ago; but we’ll have no idea, not until the light from the explosion reaches Earth. And the more you learn of Relativity, the stranger it becomes. If we ever journey to the stars, things won’t work the way they do on Star Trek! Time changes with velocity. So if one ship is speeding toward the Earth from say, Altair and another speeds away from Earth headed out to Mars and the super-nova is recorded on the Earth at exactly 1:05 on any given date, everybody’s going to “see” that super-nova at a different time. Those on Earth, those aboard the starship, those en route to Mars. And that doesn’t even take into account, that it “really” happened maybe 200,000 years ago ~ relative to the observers in the area if any were around.

Time is not a constant in our Universe. Go fast enough and in what could be 5 years to you aboard your star ship, 10,000 years could pass on Earth! Communication would be downright impossible. “Now” for one, would not be “now” for others. But if communication could be instantaneous somehow, the captain of the vessel coming in from Altair could alert the other captain that the star is going super-nova on a certain day and time, even though it hadn’t happened yet for anyone on Earth or the crew en route to Mars. In essence, he would be reporting from the Future.

At the quantum level, things are even more bizarre. Matter is found to comprise a myriad of energy fields which create what to our eyes, only “seem” to be particles. Material objects are governed by finite laws, yes. But although we see a sold time-bound Universe, it is a deception springing from another, Deep Reality which simply doesn’t operate the way we think. That Reality, a ghostly chaos seething at the very heart of all Existence, is immaterial and tenuous, basically comprised not of solid “stuff” but probabilities! Stranger yet, much of what we see is governed not by “what is out there”, but by the observer. This seemed so bizarre to Einstein, that he tried to disprove it ~ but could not. He said, “Reality is an illusion… albeit, a persistent one.”

So it seems until another theory comes along to change the picture, we may be experiencing the illusion of time ~ just because it suits our frame of reference.

How many Nows did it take to read this, if you did??

(Inspired by a recent book I read, “Time Storms”/ Jenny Randall)

(No stock: the woman’s from a photo of a mannequin I took. Ditto for the clock. The backdrop is from the Hubble. Multiple light-effects and textures are applied. )

Artwork Comments

  • biddumy
  • Nadya Johnson
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  • SpinningAngel
  • Kanages Ramesh
  • Nadya Johnson
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