Thursday, 5 July 2007

Is Time an Illusion?

Time does not exist in nature separate from man. But that is not the same as saying 'time is an illusion'. Time is a man-made invention and is used as a measure of instances from one period on to another.

Now, in terms of an existential entity called time, which one could identify in the physical universe... like an atom or an apple. That is of course a false proposition. But one could say the same thing for words. If I pick up a rock, I identify it through that label 'rock'. But nothing within existence which is separate from man's conscious mind exists in wordily form as "rock". Language like time is a tool of the conscious mind. But again this is not the same as time being an illusion, anymore than language is.

Time is an aspect of mankind's memory. We are able to mark time for the simple following reason: We have an awareness of past events and future possibilities, through stored memories and that awareness creates the mind space that allows us to infer timescales on events.

So, what one could say is that time does not exist as an existential entity, independent of man. Rather, time only exists as an invention of man, as a tool to mark timescales as we move through space and we relate that space to events in memory.

Time did not always exist, in the same way as the wheel did not always exist. They are both man-made inventions. One is a physical object that exists independently of the mind and the other exists as a consciously held concept. But the fact that one is a consciously held concept with no physical form, does not make it any less real. The fact that we can use time as a scale and we create instruments (watches and clocks) to mark passing moments, is as real as any man-made wheel.

Time in one respect does exist as a real event, which is as physically real as the man-made wheel. The hand on the clock, ticking by second by second, that is a physical event. But of course beyond man's conscious awareness of the event it becomes meaningless. But then again so would the wheel and neither could exist in the first place, without a conscious mind with the capacity to invent them.

Time is a form of measurement. It measures events as they move along in our mind and gets stored as memories. It is only our conscious ability to take 'time-out' and think in terms of past and future that gives time meaning.

Of course in reality, there is no past and there is no future. There are only universal actions in the present. From that perspective time does seem like an illusion. Indeed, existentially speaking time is illusory, because without reference to a conscious mind which could be aware of time, then time does become meaningless.

If one took existence to mean everything bar conscious awareness, then time disappears into the 'ether' and has no more validity than unicorns.

But the very fact that mankind does have the mind-space that allows individuals to hold memories, is the very ability that separates man from the present moment. Of course mankind cannot literally separate himself from the present moment. But he can juxtapose the present moment against past memories and this allows him; to then think beyond the past and the present and on into the future.

For example, if a man puts a foot mark in the sand and then begins to walk. The very fact that he can remember his first footstep; is what gives him the ability to timescale the passing of time as one foot is placed in front of another.

Time is nothing more than an instrument of measurement of the passing of moments in memory. Just as the scales of metric meters and imperial yards are man-made inventions to measure hight, depth and width.

Time then, is a man-made invention that allows us to measure moment to moment increments, defined by us in scales such as minutes and hours.

So the conclusion is that time has no meaning universally in a universe void of conscious beings. Indeed, such a universe is mindless and time would be irrelevant. A universe void of consciousness would not only be incapable of measuring time, it wouldn't even care.

Time relates to the memory of conscious beings and while conscious beings exist so will time.

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