Everything comes and goes. Time stretches out to our pasts and then out into our futures. Time before we began and then long after we are gone. Immense oceans and the boundlessness of space are mere specks in the vast realm of time. Does it rise and fall with its own tides? Imagine it coming into shore with each new being and then receding again with each death. A rhythm of life that lasts forever. Time begetting time.
Does it fold and overlap so that the past can become the future and the future can be part of the past? Imagine the way that changes everything. This would deepen the nature of forever to an even greater infinity (yes, I know you cannot make infinity larger). Would each place of touching be a time that we could choose to change the flow or would these be places in which more then one reality exists. That would imply that there are an infinity of realities making all of existence stretch out forever. Imagine how many people we could be while still being the same. Imagine in how many realities we wouldn’t even come into being. A single relationship not resulting in that one child would erase an entire family line. And the reverse would be true. A relationship that resulted in a child when it previously had not would create a line of possibly hundreds or thousands of people that would not exist in the other reality. What then does this make us? How would we define an individual? I think it would be by our DNA. That would have to be essentially the same or we would be someone else. We could make different choices that would greatly effect the person we become. And those people we encounter could also make different choices that would effect us into being different people. Imagine the difference of a 70 year old person who was raped at 18 versus the same 70 year old if they hadn’t been raped. They would be the same person, but I imagine that much of them would be different. In this way we too could last forever, if the realities had endless possibilities and versions.
We are such fleeting creatures, passing before the universe can even bat an eye. Slipping past without notice. Time slows only long enough for us to perceive it and only with in our eyes. But if there are more then one version of us, does that make us last longer? Does that give us forever, if the universe played our stories out in all its variations and explored all the possible ways to fold the paper of time? And if time marches in a straight line, would life exist forever? Imagine a universe with nothing living within it. Time would still tick by but this would go unnoticed. Would things cycle back so that another wave of life would return; possibly here or perhaps some where else. Because even this planet will not last forever. But if forever is something real and the universe never ends, then there must be another planet with life either in the future or in the past.
Yet forever unto itself is a dream, a construct. It is something that cannot be. The universe has taught us that nothing lasts forever. But if that is true, what comes after time? What came before it? When was the beginning and when will time end? Where are the edges of the universe and what realms are beyond it? If there are things after those, does it not then go on forever? The paradox is of this never ending fold. It makes forever necessary, yet that contradicts all else in being. But if time and the universe ends that requires something to be beyond that. If that next thing ends, then there is something beyond that. For what is nothingness? The universe has also taught us that nothingness cannot be. Nothing is created nor destroyed, it just changes from one form to the next. But that implies that it was always in being, that all matter has existed and will exist forever. It implies that nothingness is impossible. Everything about time and the universe is an origami of illusion and paradox.
Once one thing is believed, it forces upon us more questions then we had started with. And perhaps that is another place that forever resides. Knowledge must be endless if we can always ask more questions and learn new things. Not just the things that humans already know, but all there is to know and all that has been forgotten.
the story of time’s arrow begins with the quantum mechanical idea that, deep down, nature is inherently uncertain. An elementary particle lacks definite physical properties and is defined only by probabilities of being in various states. For example, at a particular moment, a particle might have a 50 percent chance of spinning clockwise and a 50 percent chance of spinning counterclockwise; there is no “true” state of the particle; the probabilities are the only reality that can be ascribed to it. Quantum uncertainty then gives rise to entanglement, the putative source of the arrow of time. When two particles interact, they can no longer even be described by their own, independently evolving probabilities, called “pure states.” Instead, they become entangled components of a more complicated probability distribution that describes both particles together. It might dictate, for example, that the particles spin in opposite directions. The system as a whole is in a pure state, but the state of each individual particle is “mixed” with that of its acquaintance. The two could travel light-years apart, and the spin of each would remain correlated with that of the other. The arrow of time is an arrow of increasing correlations. When objects interact with each other, they “share” information with each other and their environment. This local information loss causes the state of the object to stagnate even as the pure state of the entire room continues to evolve. An object’s state stops changing in time. Information becomes increasingly diffuse, but it never disappears completely. So, although entropy increases locally, the overall entropy of the universe stays constant at zero. The information stays constant… forever?
The present can be defined by the process of becoming correlated with our surroundings. After all, we cannot recall something if we have never engaged and thus never “shared” with it. The backdrop for the steady growth of entanglement throughout the universe is, of course, time itself. Science has made no progress in uncovering the nature of time itself or why it seems different (both perceptually and in the equations of quantum mechanics) than the three dimensions of space. Why does time appear to flow in our perceptions of it? Yet, science has shown that human perception is often different then reality. Does time really flow at all? Or perhaps time is an illusion of the human brain. Now, that idea makes so many of our perceptions tremble. After all, we can recall the past. People have died who are no longer here. But do these perceptions of the universe dictate that time must be real?
Consider this one issue upon which philosophers are deeply divided: What sort of ontological differences are there among the present, the past and the future? There are three competing theories. Presentists argue that necessarily only present objects and present experiences are real, and we conscious beings recognize this in the special vividness of our present experience compared to our dim memories of past experiences and our expectations of future experiences. So, the dinosaurs have slipped out of reality even though our current ideas of them have not. However, according to the growing-past theory, the past and present are both real, but the future is not real because the future is indeterminate or merely potential. Dinosaurs are real, but our future death is not. The third theory is that there are no objective ontological differences among present, past, and future because the differences are merely subjective. This third theory is called “eternalism.”
One thing that we all seem to agree upon is that time measures change. Calendars are marked out based upon change: the full moon, seasons or the passing of a number of days. Clocks mark the passing of minutes. Passage of time would not be a relevant question if nothing changed. Humans could not exist without change. Even the actions we taken everyday are actions of change. We change from a state of sleeping to one of wakefulness. We change from be naked to being dressed. Without change we could not act and without action, could we say that we are human? As mortal beings, we need the passage of time to understand and give context to the change around us. But there is one change that most try to avoid: death. It is something that most of us cope with by denying it to be real. We know that we will die and we think of it in passing, but in the greater scheme of things we do not think of our lives in context of our deaths. And it is this final change that spawns the question of forever and infinity. For if time does not last forever, then we too cannot. But if time does last forever, there is the possibility that we too could last forever in some way.
Perhaps time is nothing but mortal perception and forever a mortal dream.