The Construct of Time

When I was writing my post about dutch literature yesterday one certain part of Harry Mulisch his novel ‘the discovery of heaven’ came back to my mind. In that part of the story Mulisch introduces the idea of watching the earth from out of space with a cosmic telescope.

In that part it is described that when we see a star high above us in the sky, this star in reality already does not exist anymore. Now when you think that somebody from the same distance as the star, that exploded long time ago, would look at the earth through a telescope, he would not see the earth as is now, but because of the distance measured in light years would see a scene that happened long time ago on earth.

Depending from where in space you would look through the telescope on the earth you would see dinosaurs, medieval times, the roman empire, europe in second world war, etc. as reality. With other words past becomes present again depending from which distance you are looking at it.

This idea really show us the illusionary aspect of dimensions like time and space. Because what finally is now reality: the star that we see high above us in the sky, or the explosion or burndown of it long time back?

If you think of it in that sense when we look up to the evening sky our own senses are like some kind of a time machine.

Time in essence is a construct made to condition our ‘reality’ in such a way that we start believing in it. Our lives are built around time: schedules, dates, chronological orders, etc. This fact enforces its illusion.

Our consciousness tends to structure our perceptions in a certain order. That way the sensations arising of it in their turn can be assimilated, defined and classified.

We experience time as a flow, like present updating itself constantly. But finally time is nothing but an artificial construct, a human attempt, to measure the rate of change of the ever changing present.

We humans measure our time on earth in form of age. But what does age really tell us? In the end, in term of the order of the universe, does it really make a difference whether – measured in human dimensions – somebody is here for 20, 50, 70 or maybe even 90 years?

Lots of our time on earth we spend sleeping or by just killing time. But thats maybe because we count the time we have already spent and don’t countdown the time we have left.

Just imagine every person would exactly know the amount of time that is left for him or her. Maybe we would not let us slumber so much in the sleep-work-sleep-work-spend money-sleep schedule.

But still even then: would it really matter?



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