“Existence is a series of footnotes to a vast, obscure, unfinished masterpiece.” ~ Valdimir Nabokov
My fellow travellers on the space-time continuum, what is this thing called time, by which we measure our existence on Earth?
Time is a phenomenon that affects us all. It ‘s a by-product of physicality. Ever since Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity and the most famous equation the world has ever known, E=mc2, from his paper on Special Relativity, we have come to understand more about the properties of space and time.
Some of the brightest and best minds of the human race have pondered, nay, studied the very fabric of space-time. And they have reached into the sub-atomic world to do it. Whilst I’m nowhere remotely near that select group of individuals, I thought it would be fun to share a few of my musings on the subject.
These musings were stimulated by recently watching the multiple award winning film, the Theory of Everything, with amazing performances by Eddie Redmayne as the brilliant but sick scientist, Stephen Hawking, and Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde, who became his first wife and mother of his three children. Certain scenes in the movie brought me to tears. It was based on Jane’s memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, published in 2007.
Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 1963 whilst completing his PhD in physics at Cambridge University, and was told he had two years to live. Now aged 72, against incredible odds, he continues to search for his all-encompassing theory. He is the recipient of many accolades, such as Fellowship of The Royal Society, and the Queen offered him a Knighthood, (which he politely refused).
He wrote his best-selling book, A Brief History of Time in 1988, which has since sold over 10 million copies. The New York Metropolitan Opera have created a new opera based on the book, which is to be premiered in 2015-16.
Another movie that also stimulated thoughts on the passing of time was Interstellar, wherein the hero (played by Matthew McConaughey), goes off into distant galaxies to find a new and habitable planet for the human race to re-populate; being on the brink of extinction due to climate change on Earth. In deep space it’s only a few years to him, and he barely ages, but when he returns home his daughter is an old lady and a grandmother.
How weird is that?
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” ~ Michael Altshuler
As humans living on planet Earth we cannot escape the inevitable march of time. I distinctly remember thinking at the age of 15 that I could not imagine how it would feel to be 30 years old. It seemed so far away. I thought I’d be ancient…
A few blinks of an eye later and I’m now the wrong side of 40, but strangely I don’t feel that much different. I’m still me. Of course my body has aged (but well, I hope), although anatomically, we are literally not the same people as our cells constantly die and renew themselves. My personality is broadly the same, only a bit more mature having learned a few life lessons, and at the same time a bit more adventurous, gleaned from the fact that time is passing at apparently ever increasing velocity!
I suppose what I’m trying to say, is that my consciousness has witnessed the years passing, but is unaffected by them. Maybe our souls really do exist outside of space and time, in a non-linear domain, hence the theory that souls are immortal by nature.
A person could go round the bend studying the concept of time. Supposedly time is happening all at once; past, present and future…
“The problem with procrastination is it’s been around since the beginning of time it seems.” ~ Stephen Richards
This was the best mnemonic I could come up with: The Immediate Moment Everywhere
Writers as well as scientists have also penned their take on time. I particularly love this passage by TS Eliot. Four Quartets, Burnt-Norton:
TS Eliot also features in this interesting talk: The Nature of Time, by Will Self on BBC radio 4
Of course, time is a key component in music, the beating of the time signature by the conductor, thus ensuring that the notes are played according to their pre-ordained time frame as written by the composer. If a musician doesn’t adhere to the time the music will be sloppy, and probably won’t sound as the composer intended. I got to thinking that the beats in a bar could resemble the seconds of our lives, and the music represents the events in our lives.
“It struck me tonight how music mirrors life. Fleeting ephemeral moments, made up of beauty, sadness, joy, hope and despair. The melodies are created in both major and minor keys. Flowing and fleeting. You can’t hold onto it, or keep it from changing. Our emotions possess the evanescence of a note.” ~ The Virtuoso
Here are two videos to explain all!
The Illusion of Time – Quantum Physics:
The End of Space and Time? – Professor Robbert Dijkgraaf:
“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.” ~ John Lennon
The notion of time as a finite measurement really hits home after you have children, or especially after the death of a loved one. Then it seems the nonchalant pleasure of idling it away as one may have enjoyed in one’s youth, becomes somewhat of an anathema with the realisation that one’s time could be suddenly curtailed!
These days I am reminded how easy it is to become engrossed in my writing or playing my violin, and lose all track of time, and what a wonderful feeling that is, to not be beholden to the constant ticking for those brief hours…
“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” William Penn