Saturday, April 30, 2005

Time release

It is indubitable that the human race has an antagonistic stance as regards time. For one thing, Time and Death are personified in the same way, as a grim reaper. To wit: "Love's not time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle's compass come." (Shakespeare) We speak of killing time, and in returned are killed by him—why "him," by the way? Why does the feminine (Mother Nature) bring life and the masculine bring death (Father Time)? Do we all hate our fathers, is that what this is all about? Is humanity Oedipal at its root? Is all this talk of an all-merciful loving God the Father who takes care of us just a smokescreen? Come on! We hate the sucker! After all, he spies on us, judges us, punishes us—kill him! Nail him up! We don't like him, not really.

As for Time, it is perhaps unfairly implicated in this species-wide psychological disturbance. Time is no doubt bemused that it is the object of such massive amounts of infantile projection. Why can't we let it go, release it from being victimized by our terrifying collective psychosis? The tyranny of the clock to which we are subjugated, which we chafe against even as we celebrate its cycles, has nothing to do with time, after all. It was not time's idea to invent these infernal machines. No, like so many of the messes that man makes, we did it to ourselves, sad to say.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The nonlinearity of the first dimension

We assume that a one-dimensional object is linear, because by definition a line is an extension along one dimension. But there can be no linearity without measurement and there can be no measurement in a first dimension without a second dimension, because there is no way to ascertain units of length within the confines of one dimension. You simply cannot compare one unit with another. A measuring stick cannot be created without the second dimension.

So because measurement is impossible in the first dimension, no finite linear object can exist in it. To propose that there may be only one object in the first dimension, an infinite line, is tantamount to saying there is no object at all, only dimensionality itself. To speculate that there could be a finite line whose existence is not invalidated by its lack of a property of measurability from within its own dimension, is to ignore that the quality of finitude is dependent on measurability; it is not an a priori property but one that has to be derived by systematic observation. Therefore, the first dimension is nonlinear—on its own terms.

However, here in the world of the third dimension we are very linear indeed. Even though we don't have to think in one-dimensional terms, we do anyhow. There is something about the crushing gravity of materiality that compresses thought. Perhaps Hamlet could be bounded in a nutshell and count himself a king of infinite space. But there are too few Hamlets in the world, who have discovered the existence of depth.

One person at a time

What if there really is just one person in the universe at a time, and the idea that there are a multiplicity of people is just an illusion? The one person who truly exists is faster than the proverbial speeding bullet, darting around from mind to mind experiencing things from one point of view, then another, for an infinitesimal moment, then jumping into another point of view, but doing it so fast that each mind thinks itself experiencing time in a continuous unbroken flow, which creates the illusion of an individual identity. Like watching a movie with discrete frames, each individual consciousness is only experiencing individual moments.

This may not be a complete fantasy; physicist Paul Davies proposes it in his book About Time as a plausible explanation of what really is. If so, then One is truly the loneliest number, and God is a restless creator in an empty universe.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Base tables

Create a relational database describing the universe. There are people: John, Mary, and Susan. And there are planets: Earth, Mars, and Venus. We start out with two base tables containing the entities of people and planets respectively. Then we create queries on these tables and what we end up with is John's Earth, Mary's Earth, and Susan's Earth; John's Mars, Mary's Mars, and Susan's Mars; and John's Venus, Mary's Venus, and Susan's Venus. If we try to resolve the multiplicity of experienced planets, we can say that they derive from the base tables. Objective reality simplifies to the essential entities such as people and planets.

Except for one thing. Those essential entities were derived in the first place. And what were they derived from? The experiences that were supposedly derived from them. In other words, because an experience happened, we objectify it by deriving an experiencer and an experience. These objects are identified and categorized in base tables. Then retroactively the experiences from which they are derived are categorized as derived from them.

Before there was Susan or Earth, there was Susan's Earth. Mary's Venus preexisted either the planet or the person. After the entities were rationalized out, it was determined that there was a subject and object of that experience. The existence of those categories, and their population in base tables, "proves" that a complex reality is based on simple identies and categories. You can't fill out the scorecard unless you know who the players are. But who's keeping score? We are. We paper the walls of our world with printouts. But what are the databases based on? Where did the data come from? And how real are these entities it presumes to describe?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Blogging and the writing process

This being my second post in a row about blogging, I may be in danger of excessive self-referentiality. (But then isn't even one act of self-referentiality excessive? So if you're going to do it, do it big!) In any case (a convenient phrase of dismissal) I am going to risk overstepping my rhetorical bounds because I think the blogging medium offers a great format for developing ideas. If I were still teaching writing, I would definitely make it an assignment for my students to blog daily. Since blogging is writing for publication (I do believe more people read my blog than have read some of the books I have published!), and nothing improves your writing faster than knowing that people are reading it, it would be a wonderful teaching aid.

My current plan is to write a book on the physics, philosophy, and psychology of time. And based on my experience in blogging, I have decided to structure it in bloglike units. It will have chapters and so on, but the real unit within the chapter will be something that is more or less self-contained, like an individual blog entry. Not only will this make it possible to read the book non-sequentially, it will induce all sorts of thematic cross-referencing (without the hyperlinks, of course, at least in the non-digital version). In the process of writing I will be posting entries on the subject of time, thus generating content in a form that may eventually be reproduced in the same form in which it was written (or more likely go through a lot of transmutation first, perhaps to end up in the bloglike state from which it began). It will be an interesting experiment.