Let’s start with a question:
If you and I both die (peacefully in our sleep, I hope) on our ninetieth birthday at the exact recorded minute of our birth, did we live the same amount of time?
In the last 24 hours of clock time, I’ve ingested information from a variety of sources.
I am neither a trained scientist, nor philosopher, and yet I was immediately drawn in by an Aeon article: What Einstein owes to Hume’s notion of time
We’ve all heard of Einstein, right? And Hume? I’ve known of him for less than a year. He’s a philosopher’s philosopher—both scientists and philosophical thinkers have found value in Hume’s work—or so the article conveys.
Anyhow…the article was a little over my head, but I stuck it through to the end. There were words I should have stopped to look up, but I opted to slide through the article, letting my foot grab hold on the ledges of resonance.
What really struck me among references to Newton, Faraday, Descartes, Norton…and their theories, was how Einstein’s theory of relativity relates to time. If you and I live the exact amount of clock time, the article’s explanation of perception leads me to believe we don’t live the same amount of relative time:
Time, as it appears to us, is made of indivisible moments that are parts of succession. In the interpretation offered by the philosopher Donald L M Baxter in Hume’s Difficulty(2007), a single moment cannot have a duration. Something counts as a duration only if it is a temporal complex. We must perceive a change with respect to moments; otherwise we could not abstract the idea of time. There is an analogy that I have suggested earlier for understanding Hume’s reasoning on this matter. Imagine a stationary observer in front of a huge grey wall. The wall is evenly painted, and it covers the observer’s whole visual field. In this scenario, there is nothing changing in front of her. The wall is a steadfast object. It has no duration. Such an unchangeable object cannot be the source for the idea of time alone. Now, if something is changing, like a blue object moving in front of the wall, then the observer will be able to acquire the idea of time through the object’s change of place. Although the wall is a steadfast object, the moving item is not. When it is moving, it is changing its location with respect to the observer. However, this change is relative to the observer’s viewpoint. If the observer would be moving together with the object at the same relative velocity, there would be no change and therefore no duration in her viewpoint.
I apologize if this is complex—believe me when I say that a woman (me) who can’t figure out how to assemble a folding tent, is struggling right along with you….But something tells me this is important to how we live.
I read something from Seth Godin this morning that piqued my curiosity. Does the world need more busy people? I believe the world would benefit from more thoughtful people….who live simply. Do you think Einstein and Hume would be classified as busy…or thoughtfully motivated in their actions and accomplishments?
In blue highways by William Least Heat-Moon, the traveler describes his visit to a Trappist Monastery. In conversations with the monks, the idea of simplicity was on repeat…
Brother Patrick Duffy said, “Simplicity reveals the universals we all live under. Material goods can blunt your perception of greater things. Here (the monastery), the effort is to free yourself from blindness, arrogance, selfishness.”
Father Anthony said about the austerity of the monastery grounds, “The purpose is freedom—for body and mind. Simplicity is flexible. It endures well. Without so many things around, we have more time.”
We have more time….
relative to those who stuff their lives like Joey Chestnut stuffs himself with hot dogs?
Finally, I watched a TED talk by Robert Grant. In under 15 minutes, he gives a tremendous talk about beautiful minds free from fear. He quotes Alexander the Great:
Man’s immortality is not living forever. Every moment free from fear makes man immortal.
Welcome to the hodge podge lodge that is my mind…
I did not make this newsletter into a simple story today and I’m sorry for that, as my goal is to convey long known wisdom in simple terms for all.
I’ll let my subconscious percolate all of these ideas and we’ll see what comes of it, eh?
I welcome your thoughts to my lodge….