Time is a powerful force that controls our existence. Every moment in which we are alive and conscious has been given a numerical label. The cycles of human behavior have been etched by the concept of time: when we sleep and wake, when we eat, when we celebrate birthdays and other anniversaries, how we define being late or early. We see time as a continuous, regular, and omnipresent measurement. But what if it is not? What if, time is actually an illusion?
For some reason, it is easier for me to imagine the physical world as an illusion. Since it is only something that the brain creates for us based on it’s best guess of what the electrical impulses in neurotransmitters imply, it is easier to comprehend the real world as possibly being something different, and if you close your eyes, it’s not even there anymore. But what about time? That’s not something you can shake off. Does the brain create the concept of time; or it there some metaphysical, universal clock, present since the beginning of reality, ticking off the time since the start? It is simply the pure intelligence of humans that has allowed us to be aware of how one change occurs in relation to another, which is then mapped onto an accepted reference table known as the clock? If, for example, you clap your hands, and then two seconds later, you shake you head, and time is the only thing that separated these two independent actions, what would happen if time did not exist? Would everything just happen at once? But “at once” is also a measure of time, so what will happen? Also, imagine if everything in the universe froze. Would time still go on? If everything would then unfreeze, how would we know how much time passed? If time exists only in the present moment, how do the series of these intervals add up to our continuous perception of time? Aristotle had said that “time does not exist without change,” so do we create time by “jumps” and combinations of these seemingly infinite changes, or is time really just an arrow that predictably and continuously points forward, and we must dutifully march down it?
I’ve been thinking a lot about how time is perceived as a person ages. When I was younger, one day would feel longer than a day right now would. I assume that this is because I got used to time ticking along, and started to become unaware of it. I also think that a lot of my perception of the world has moved to my subconscious. When I was young, my family would often go on road trips. I really liked to look out the window and notice all the trees, bushes, road signs, and the occasional squirrel or deer. My fascination was especially captivated during the autumn foliage season, when the leaves would turn red, orange, and yellow and there was just so much to look at. Now, I’m used to seeing leaves and trees. I now know, with a numbing certainty, that by the time September rolls around, the leaves will definitely change color, so I am not aware of it when they finally do. I notice change much less, and time has become only a reminder of the progression of my life.
My younger brother, on the other hand, is consumed by the concept of time. He is both a competitive swimmer and rubik’s cube solver, and he is constantly chasing the progression of time, training for hours to shed a second, sometimes even a few milliseconds, from his breaststroke or solve time. That second could determine his victory, or grant him esteem and wisdom within his circles of friends on Facebook. I checked his Instagram page and saw that hundreds of adoring “fans” follow him because he solved a rubik’s cube a few seconds faster than someone else. I am very proud of his accomplishments, but I wonder what it must feel like to battle something so wholly beyond his control and how precise all his actions must be in order to please this invisible judge. I’d assume that time means something very different for him than it does for me. Having the ability to solve a rubik’s cube in six seconds gives an entire minute much more potential to him than it does to me. If he could solve ten rubik’s cubes and swim the length of the pool twice while I can probably only read two pages of a book, his minutes are much more powerful than mine. If every little move matters so much to him, his perception of time has more notable intervals and does not all blend into one big blur like it does for me. Ultimately, our perceptions of time are very different, which leads me to believe that each individual assigns their own meaning to the intervals between the changes happening in their lives, and time is an illusion that we all create for ourselves.
Originally published on the Literati Mafia