It’s hard to find anyone who would have fundamental problem accepting common meaning of time. We need it. We need our future and our past. What is interesting is that no one is asking why we so easy accept it and use it as a fundamental element of our perception and what we would call “understanding” of world around us, which we describe as our “reality”.
What if, time is so fundamental to our lives, that we had to invent it.
The ability of our mind to perceive world in terms of time and space, has proven so far most useful and beneficial, specifically in narrow range of conditions existing in our environment. However, only quick look into common concept of time and its pre-determined arrow of change unveils a fundamental problem with it. It is not absolute. The beginning and the end of time period we consider, is purely arbitrary and singular in nature. There is no beginning and there is no end in absolute terms or is it?
Common concept of time, or rather concept of period of time, is based on cycles, sun illumination cycle, astronomical cycle, biological cycle, atomic excitation cycle etc. Relying solely on external clues or interpretative conjectures, we can only perceive discrete time difference in units of fractions of cycles but not multiples of completed cycles when unaided by our conceptual framework.
But what cycle means is but perception of some state or configuration returning to the same or similar state after some changes. Clearly cycles and their fractions are readily used to describe perceived changes to our environment as well as their order and direction. So do we need time to describe order and direction of changes? Or we need changes to describe time.
Curiously, we are able to conceptualize neither infinity nor finality of time itself. Therefore, concept of time itself is ambiguous. The same considerations apply to concept of space itself and hence concept of space itself is ambiguous as well. Time and space seems to be only necessary reference describing existing or abstract objects and their dynamic relations, so called phenomena. Only as a compact support (basis) for certain object measures such as volume, mass, distance etc. Consequently, we cannot prove ,theoretically or experimentally, that time-space exists in real world.
So why we made time, impossible to be directly sensed or experienced or even precisely defined, so fundamental to our worldview? Maybe, we just need time-interwoven stories to “understand” the world around us and have great difficulty to come up with any comprehensible narratives without time ordered by positive time arrow from the past to the future. May be simple because we created something in our mind, memories which we think, contain data about what already happened or what we perceived had happened. We only could retain perceptions of past and/or predictions of future but not past and future themselves. If we wipe out our memories, for us, time would come to complete stop. We would not be able to track any perceived changes in ourselves or our environment due to complete lack of reference frame. So if our perception of present reality would be the reality, are we going to stop ageing? Or would we know what aging means?
Let’s take a look at more familiar narratives of our reality. There are at least several fundamental components (categories) of comprehensible narratives required for human understanding. Some of them are, concepts of time and space, concepts of object existence, concepts of identity, uniqueness and abstractions and finally concepts of countability, complexity, unity, complementarity, reason and/or causality and more.
Let’s ask ourselves following questions. Can we really comprehend story happening nowhere and in no time? Can we really comprehend story about something undefined without using any word to name it or describe it? Can we really comprehend story about something non-existent without saying a word to describe it? Can we truly comprehend stories devoid of reason or causality without beginning and the end of a story?
Such stories, while could be conceived as poetry, could have been “felt” but not really understood, meaning stories without any references to our own knowledge or experience, would have been not comprehensible to a human.
Many nowadays revered speculative theories are presented as narratives defying common comprehension such as life and death or Big Bang theory straggling with concept of beginning and the end insisting on its finality, closure of time period of existence. Missing other obvious alternative namely infinity of time/space within their time/space limited model.
In order to truly understand any story, we assign (narrow or vague) abstract identities referring to “existing or existed” subjects/objects. We need abstract identity (to ensure uniqueness of objects/subjects so we know about what or who we are talking about), stated (at least implicit) reason that drives subjects and causality that drives objects, in order to comprehend our stories. Another optional but desirable element of the comprehensible story is its rational conclusion, major point, morale or suggestion, to make it worthwhile reading or hearing. Do such stories tell us what really happened or they are just our subjective, biased descriptions of reality, one of possible many.
So does there, a time or space for that matter, exists in reality? Or we just invented it for our stories and therefore perceive everything as “real” always in terms of time and space for lack of better tool, like hammer perceives everything as a nail.
Such questions gently touch upon elements of transcendental philosophy of mind.
What do we really know before we learn anything? Stay tune answers are coming.