GUC: Understanding of time restructures worldview
Opinions Column: Macro to Micro
Red and yellow leaves are starting to populate the sidewalks. My wooly socks are officially no longer confined to storage bins. Autumn is whistling a cool breeze upon our necks as temperatures drop and sweater season begins. October is here. While I hold no complaints against the slightly cold weather and the increasingly colorful view of Voorhees Mall, the idea of time has been preoccupying certain corners of my mind. It seems like the semester just started and now midterms are already approaching. The topic of time has arisen quite a bit in conversations I have had in the last week. How does one manage time? For some it flies by, for others it drags on, taking ever slow strides. Yet perhaps even before speaking about how one ought to “manage” it, some reflection upon its nature is necessary. Time is an elusive concept — difficult to define and grasp. Some may state that it is just a term utilized for the progression of the world’s existence or that it is a social construct designed to help humans structure and anchor their own activities and actions. Others may assert that it is something that exists outside our dimension of understanding and is not subjective to our experiences. All may be correct. What fundamentally interests me is the relation between time and my existence. While such an approach may seem self-centric, I can only in an honest manner reflect upon what my consciousness perceives and so, only engage in subjective reasoning. Yet, this should not come to mean that subjective reasonings cannot lead to objective truths. The contrary may be argued.
Many acquaintances or any who are patient enough to endure my ramblings may be familiar with my often declared mantra, “Time does not exist.” The utterance of such a phrase usually results in rolled eyeballs or raised eyebrows as I throw my hands in the air and attempt to explain my thought process. While I do sincerely hold such a claim, the dramatic declaration may deserve some unpacking and elucidation. One may contend that what is experienced tends to be a series of individual moments that, once placed together, offer an illusion of a continuous, linear stream that is called, by the general population, “time.” For example, any film in its editing process will be opened by a computer program that shows the individual frames of the seemingly intact and singular piece of recording. Yet, because those individual frames follow one another with no gaps, a smooth transition from one frame to another is experienced, and the final product appears to be a single piece. Similarly, there may, in fact, be no singular entity called “time” that exists but rather individual moments that come in and out of existence immediately following one another so as to offer the experience of a singular, uninterrupted phenomenon.
But the question arises on why any of this matters. Regardless of how one views the concept of time, it may be argued that the experience of the passage of time still exists. And yet, this may precisely be the illusory aspect of the situation. It is not that I experience a passage of the same and singular entity but rather that I construct such an entity in my mind when, in fact, what I am experiencing in each moment is a different and distinct new existence. The momentary existence preceding my currently momentary existence may not have been completely dissimilar to the latter but the former is still to be distinguished from it. The implication of such thoughts, if they are true, is rather significant. Simply put, this would mean that my consciousness from a moment ago is not the same consciousness I hold in this very moment. Each moment would be offering a new opportunity to think differently, to act differently, to hold different beliefs and conclusions. While this may appear far-fetched, it is true that our physical bodies are constantly changing, from the very cells in our skin to our fingernails that appear to have grown overnight. If my physical existence is so extremely dynamic, it only makes sense that my mental state and non-material qualities are just as, if not more, dynamic and ever-changing.
There are popular societal phrases that are often used for motivational purposes like “You are not the same person you were yesterday” or “every day is a new beginning” and while they are certainly true, I would like to be the proponent of a more radical worldview. Yesterday is far too historic. I am not the same person I was a moment ago. And rather than “every day,” every moment is a new beginning. Equipped with such an understanding, one becomes truly liberated and free in thought, ability and belief.
Aysenur Guc is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in philosophy. Her column,"Macro to Micro," runs on alternate Mondays.
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