No Time Like the Present

We live in the past.

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Not just in the retrospective, nostalgic, times-were-better-when sense of the past. Literally, we can’t escape the past. Because information can only travel as fast as the speed of light, less the resistance of our crude organic matter, what we perceive as the present is a moment that is already a dim memory of the cosmos.

Of course, we’re not that far in the past. Only milliseconds, really. But the phenomenon stretches out into infinity the farther away the observed thing is from the observer. In fact, astronomers have recently concluded that their telescopes are looking at some objects so distant that the light from those objects was literally born in the same instant that our universe was. Which baffles the mind, really. Because here we are, the result of billions of years of senseless collisions of quarks and particles hurtling through the void, and we can simultaneously perceive the (almost) present and the beginning of knowable time.

Knowable for now, anyway.

The cool thing about science (and, incidentally, why I long ago decided that I much prefer science to religion) is that science can change its mind about things. Can, and does, actually. The scientific community is willing to reverse any number of preconceived notions the moment they learn a thing that disagrees with those notions. Which is just one reason among many that nerds around the world were (and still are) so excited about the work going on with the Large Hadron Collider. Every day, scientists are pushing the boundaries of the things we know. Sometimes, they learn what they expect to learn. Sometimes, their discoveries force them to virtually rewrite history. But what science doesn’t do is disagree with what’s staring it in the face. Science doesn’t sit there–as humans are wont to do–and say, “no, we don’t like what we’ve discovered here, that doesn’t jive with what we believe… let’s ignore it until it goes away.”

But I got off topic. Most animals are creatures that live in the present. They act on instinct. A wolf in the wild doesn’t ponder what its dad was thinking when it chomped him in the neck that one time as a child. The wolf goes for the kill because the kill is there, NOW. Humans, on the other hand, reach ceaselessly for the past. We romanticize. Reminisce. But the fact is, we don’t know what now looks like.

Not only can we not process information that fast–literally barring us from ever existing in the real, crackling cutting edge of the now–but everything we see and learn and experience gets filtered through the lens of the past, because we can’t help remembering it.

I feel like I’m drifting again. I’ve got a wicked cold setting in and it’s clouding what’s already a pretty murky train of thought. I think my point is this:

What would our world be like if we could experience the present? The wicked, razor-sharp edge of perception, the collisions of all the being and nothingness that drives everything in the universe? All thought takes time. Reacting takes time. Speaking to a friend takes time. If we could make perception and communication truly instantaneous, where would that put us?

I was going to try to answer my own question, but I don’t know if my disease-addled brain can manage it, so I’m going to leave it there. Maybe I’ll read this in the morning and realize that this entire ramble was just a tailspin down a condemned rabbit hole.

Or maybe it’s one I’ve fallen down before.

oooOOOOOOooo no, probably not.

See, this is what happens when pressure on my brain from an accumulation of mucus mixes with a cocktail of pseudoephedrine and wine. The safeguards shut down and the Id-Writer breaks loose and trashes the place.

Sigh. The prompt was “present.” Christmas is coming. Presents are awesome. The end.

This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.

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About Pavowski

I am a teacher, runner, father, and husband. I am an author-in-progress. I know just enough about a lot of things to get me into a lot of trouble. View all posts by Pavowski

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