Letter to my Son
Sunday, 14 April
Good Morning Jack…
I don’t think anyone, including scientists, has ever attempted to measure the duration of the present. As far as I know everything in existence occurs within the hairbreadth instantaneous instant of the current time length of now. It seems we live in a linear series of innumerable instances of now. All life itself exists only in this instant of now. Because we have memory, because we anticipate what is coming next, we are left with the impression that life inhabits a fuzzier time frame. It does not. The duration of life is only the actual size of a single instance of the recurring period of now. How long is that? I suspect it is well less than one one-thousand of a second. It is probably so minuscule that it can not be properly measured. We will probably have to all agree on some very small fictional number in order to quantify the length of now.
What happens if someone was to become out of sync with our present awareness of the now? What if they somehow moved to a different version of now? Is this possible? I don’t know. I suspect if your existence was located in a different present from ours then you would be unavailable to us and we would be unknown to you. Carrying that thought one step further it seems possible for there to be any number of realities inhabiting the same physical space of existence but completely separated by an alternative time frame. The inhabitants of the different periods of now would be in complete separation from each other because they inhabit parallel but alternate dimensions, separated by a different phase in time. This is entirely speculative and the conclusions arrived here may change with further thought.
Freeing our mind of structure and rules enables us to venture down paths having no known basis in reality. If you think about it you can see how daydreams can be the beginnings for great scientific discovery. Einstein’s epic Theory of Relativity is thought to have begun with his trolley ride to work. He spent this time wondering what reality would be like were he able to ride a beam of light. With his background in physics and mathematics these became more than idle musings. Certainly there were more knowledgeable physicists than him and there were more talented mathematicians than Einstein but their names are long forgotten. I believe the difference between genius and being merely brilliant has to do with the capacity to imagine. Remarkable scientists extrapolate from the appropriate rules in order to arrive at the solution to a problem. The Einsteins of the world first contemplate what isn't yet thought to exist and then use their education in science and mathematics to prove to the world the truth of their fantasy. The spark of genius lies in the power of one’s imagination. In order to budge human knowledge beyond the boundaries of the accepted we have to first visualize thoughts most everyone else would consider absurd. Besides having a powerful imagination one must also possess the courage to face down ridicule or else quietly abandon the pursuit of one’s own belief. Human destiny is not engineered by lemmings. We are all indebted to the few self-sufficient pathfinders that scout our course, often sacrificing their own well-being so that we may benefit from their discoveries. Society busies itself elaborating on the ideas of a few. They are fashioned into the tools of our economy. They form the structure of our education. They provide the foundation from which new odysseys are launched by an entirely new generation of pioneers.
What is the length of the present instance of existence? Can it be measured? Is there the possibility of time frames parallel to our own? Is time a linear progression or is this an illusion brought about by our own experience of time? How do we go about studying the properties of time? What tools will we need? What education will be required? How do we prove the validity or falseness of our speculation? A talented and resourceful individual could devote their life to answering some of these questions. Personal commitment, great labor and brilliant thought does not guarantee for one individual success. Many a worthy and heroic individual has pursued their dream to an unproductive end. Many people are required to chart their own separate course of discovery so that we can celebrate the glorious achievement of the so very few. They are lone vessels cast upon a disquieted sea. It’s the nature of life. Great reward begins with first taking high risk. You can’t avoid it. If you succeed society benefits, and you are rewarded with your name and a thumbnail photo of yourself published in some barely read textbook somewhere. But that’s OK. If fame were your goal you would have long ago shucked the books and you’d have bought teeth whitener and a plane ticket to
Hollywood. With luck you’d have a golden nest egg for
retirement and, when you die, you’d get a thumbnail picture of yourself and a
short blurb to go with it in the obituary column of the New York Times. Congratulations! You've achieved a recognition approximating
our notion of immortality. No matter how
you choose to look at it, the fact is, popular recognition makes for a poor
facsimile of a human’s true worth. Live
your life to the standards worthy of you and let everything else be as it
may. That is all we’re good for.