Front to Back : A General Musing on Time

There is a finite amount of time in any given day. To be exact, there are twenty four hours in a day, or if we were being real sticklers for the facts, a complete rotation of the Earth actually takes 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds. Regardless of the technical facts, 7 billion people ramble through that cycle every day, 365 times a year, and if you are lucky you get to do that whole process a handful of times. I live in a first world country, so my twenty four hours looks a lot different than someone’s twenty four hours from a tribe in the Amazon, but my point still stands that a day is finite, as is a year, or even a lifetime.

The famous question “where does the time go” is actually a loaded question, because not only do you have to answer the whole question of where it is that time goes, you also have to answer where time comes from and what the hell time even is. I realize we have an understanding of hours, minutes, seconds, and so on, but there is a larger theory of time that makes the whole topic much broader but a lot less concrete.

We thought for a long time that time flowed like a river because of a theory of time called “The Arrow of Time” theory. This is how Doc Brown accomplished heading back into the past, and subsequently as the film so accurately describes in its title, this is how he headed back to the future. The DeLorean was a boat, and he had some complications going upstream, but nonetheless time was portrayed as being linear so it was a straight shot in both directions. The idea of a linear singular time, has been hotly contested, and in general, widely debunked. A professor at M.I.T. Dr. Bradford Skow put out a “ Block time” theory in early 2015 that essentially argues that the past present and future all operate together, and that we exist at any given time temporarily scattered in time.

The “Block Time” theory is important because it implies that although everything you experience does actually exist, it can’t be played back or revisited in a literal sense, because travel between the different times is not possible due to the block. Time is laid out in the way that a floor full of a child’s toys are laid out, and we have to think of those toys are moments. The child is continuously moving and scattering the toys, so a toy is never in the same place at the same time, making it impossible to find the toy after it has been played with initially. If time were linear moments, it would be more like toys or moments were neatly stacked in a toy box and every toy gets put away right after it has been played with as opposed to just being scattered about. In a linear sense, it would be possible to re play with these toys as they are right where they were left the last time they were played with. The key point in the Block Time idea is that we can never revisit old positions as we are now in a different part of space-time, and the old points in time we once inhabited are moving and being scattered along with us, making it impossible to ever visit them again.

The real world implication to this, besides me focusing on being incredibly butt hurt that I can’t drive a car into the past and have wild adventures, is that you can’t re live a moment. Your childhood, High school, college, or the first experience of anything cannot be rewound and played back. This is true now and nothing significant is gained by that knowledge, but we were working towards a future where that was possible. For me, I held out hope that I could go back in time and see my mom again before she died, see my parents meet, fight for the Union at the Battle of Gettysburg, or visit J.K. Rowling as she was writing Harry Potter. These are foolish, but we all have them, and now thanks to some Professor, I’ll never have that.

If someone far beyond my age were to read this, or any of my writings in which I discuss my age and how the years are passing me by, they would probably spit in my face. They would wonder why the hell I am so obsessed with fleeting time, and they would propose that I have every opportunity to go out and make new glory days or go and be a part of the new Harry Potter If I wanted to, to which I would scoff and start a heated tirade that there could never be a new Harry Potter or anything better than Harry Potter and so on until they get to the point of murdering me. Theoretical arguments aside, this professor proved not only that Y.O.L.O is 100% a reality, but that also it makes no sense for me to continue worrying about the past and being so obsessed with time lost.

I want to put forth something else as well. I suppose that to those who know me, I do dwell heavily on the past, more in an anecdotal way than anything else, but I still do like to bring it up. Some say people do this when they aren’t happy in the present. In my case, that is actually categorically untrue. I love where I am, and where I came from, although hilarious at times and full of once in a lifetime occurrences, it was full of embarrassment and missteps. I like to go over it so much because it acts as almost a handbook, and it shows me how much I have grown. It helps me accept where things went wrong and relish in where things went right. It also reinforces who I have grown into, and the person I grew into on most days is someone I never dreamed I could've been. I bagged the girl of my dreams and we are happily married with a great home, I am focusing on my writing which is light-years from where it used to be, my bill of health is clean, I have easily some of the best friends in the world, and all In all I actually believe it when I say that I think I'm a pretty cool guy. The fundamental issue is not that I lost time before, it’s that I don’t want to lose the time I have now in the way that I lost the time before. I didn’t appreciate what I had or even realize what I had when I had it, and what I did have then doesn't hold a flame to what I have now, so my key fear in terms of time and loss is that I will squander the amazing point in my life and never have an opportunity to live in the moment once the moment is gone.

For now, knowing this is one thing, and acting on it is a totally different beast. I know barely anyone who takes their own advice, and the amount of times I have acted on my own advice is hovering close to 0. Maybe there is no time machine coming for me, and maybe time doesn’t operate like it does on "Lost" or on "Doctor Who" like I once dreamed it would. For now, not having life be like Television is probably in my favor. I have to cherish what I have now and stop caring about losing it, because in effect, that very act has caused me to lose enough already.