Tuesday, May 31, 2005

It's all space

A light year is a measure of distance, not of time. It is the distance light travels in a year. But can you name a so-called measure of time that is not really a measure of distance? A year in ordinary time is the distance that it takes for the earth to make one revolution around the sun. Months, minutes, and seconds are divisions of this unit. They are merely increments of that unit of distance. We talk as though we know what time is. In truth, we are fish swimming in a sea that we cannot perceive. So we use these terms of time measurement which do not actually measure anything but space.

For to say that we have gone such and such a distance in so long a time is to say nothing more than that we have gone such and such a distance relative to another distance. If we are measuring time purely in terms of distance, we have no measurement of anything except space.

Ordinary units of space are not particularly meaningful in themselves, of course. A foot, a mile, and so on—these units are based on rough approximations which we have in latter days codified in arbitrary fashion. Spatial units of measurement are entirely relative, referring back and forth among themselves with no absolute meaning. You could argue perhaps that the Planck length describes something real and not arbitrary, but this is such a tiny unit (1.61 x 10-35 m) that it rarely figures in our calculations of, say, how far it is from our house to Bangor, Maine. (Those who live in Bangor, Maine, may, for the purposes of this example, substitute Ottumwa, Iowa).

My conclusion is that it's all space—what we ordinarily refer to as time, that is, in a misplaced metaphor. And space is nothing more than than the imagination that we can stand still long enough in this cosmos to fix a distance between two objects. (As if the concept of object had some meaning itself.)

To know real time and real space, we had better abandon all notions of time and space whatsoever.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Knowing unknowing

Isn't that nostrum irritating about how the wise person is the one who knows how much he doesn't know? I mean, if he really knows he doesn't know, then he knows. Quit disavowing you know anything. It's false modesty. You do know something. You know what you know, and what you don't know, you don't know. You don't know that you don't know. Otherwise, you know.

Now maybe you define some of your knowledge in terms of what you don't know. That's still knowledge! You see all the stars and planets but you don't know their names, perhaps. So you say, there's a galaxy out there but I am only vaguely aware of its vast complexities. That is my infinitesimal piece of knowledge and that will satisfy. Not! Who are you kidding? In my book, you aren't satisfied with half a glass. Only the whole draught will quench the thirst. And when you quaff it to the lees, you know that you have drunk. You know that you are experienced, as Jimi Hendrix says.

He who is wise, knows what he knows and doesn't know what he doesn't know. That is the truth.