What is ‘time’? What is it exactly? Is it a rail line? Is it the train? Or is it even something that has to do with a journey? Is it just an abstract idea? Is it merely an illusion? Or is it an artifact? What is it?
It is something that I can feel, I can experience, I can understand what it is. But when you ask me, I can not tell. I can not describe it properly. I can not find the right words for it. I want to define it in certain ways so that you can understand it too, but I can’t. The same way I can not tell, who I am, what I am. Am I time? Or a part of it?
What I understand is that time is nothing but changes of states of an entity. Whenever one changes its state from one to another, time seems to exist. Time occurs when there is a change. If everything remains the same around me, including me, how I am going to realize that time has passed. I would never be able to perceive that time changed as well because nothing has changed, including me, the sole observer. How am I going to make myself believe that time has passed? Thus time is synonymous to change. The second law of thermodynamics seems to point in that direction. Time is asymmetrical with respect to the amount of order in an isolated system. Now, this isolated system is very interesting. I am getting into that later.
And what is change? How do I measure change? In order to perceive change, I need to have something that would tell me that a change has taken place in the one with respect to the other. I require this entity to compare the current state and measure the change and to be certain that a change has occurred. And thus I perceive the change. And this other thing we need is time. Change is thus codependent on time.
Now, what happens when things change or time passes. One thing that happens for sure is that new information is generated. This new information is created out of nowhere with every change or passing time. So it feels like time passes in a continuum. Like there is no beginning or end. Because events keep happening, things keep changing, from one state to another and information is being generated in a continuous manner, again the second law of thermodynamics. Funny thing is we call it a law. It sounds like we wish we could break it. But we can only wish, neither we are allowed or able to.
So, this raises more questions than it answers. No beginning or ending, just a continuous stream? Although we try to quantify a boundary and mark a beginning or ending for our own sanity. World war I started in 1914 and ended in 1918. But that was not an isolated event. A whole bunch of events led to the war and a whole bunch of other events followed. The effects of that war were so huge, we fought another war, and a whole bunch of wars. In a sense first world war never actually ended. The actors changed, but when do we say it had truly stopped or even truly started. The Big bang? The singularity? The white hole? The cause of all causes? The single point of creation? Who knows, for what I can think we could be inside someone’s fridge or shoe or something. We could be on the tip of a bullet that was shot from the gunman’s pistol a while ago. A real while ago. Well, that could explain the ‘Big Bang’, especially the bang part of it. But the creation of what? We were always here. We surely say time does not exist beyond the Big bang because it does not matter. Because that bang was impactful enough to create a universe with it, with you in it. So, what caused it does not matter. What matters is that what happens now.
It seems like time flows away and only in one direction, to the forward, beyond the past through the present into the future, like an arrow, and we are always on the tip of that arrow. The time is always now. And likewise, the same goes for space, you being the center of your own universe. The place is always here, where you are right now. Here and now.
So, time, changing and new information, these three are all linked together like the sides of the trinity, more like the tools of the trinity. I am going to call this as TCI trinity (time, change and information). I know its a naive and stupid name, but the bigger point is that does it matter. Don’t take it seriously, but sincerely. So, this TCI trinity, I do not understand how it works, but I can feel it. This seems to have the same interpretation of the isolated system I referenced earlier in the context of thermodynamics. They always occur together, inseparable, coincidental and however, coexist independently.
And this is why you cannot go back in time, well at least not physically. You can, however, revisit it, but only through your memories. You can only revisit the places you have already been, and into the events, you have already experienced yourself. Well, you can travel to other places through others’ memories. They come as knowledge, a mixture of others’ memories and your own. But you never actually truly been there. You are allowed to go there, but you can’t change a thing. Can you? You wish though. You wish you could take it back. And wish you change things, you could do things, something more, something less, something different, the things that haven’t happen before. You wish if you could go back in time and do the thing you could have done but never did. No, you are not allowed to do that, but regret. And regret you are allowed to do.
But regret, it doesn’t mean a thing, because those events led you here. You are who you are because of those events. You did what you had to do. You did what you chose to do. You did what you could do with the best of your knowledge and ability. In the same situation again, you would do the same, because you didn’t know better. Because although everything feels very random, nothing actually is. It happened because it had to happen. So, you didn’t actually do anything. In Sanskrit, there is a phrase, ‘Naiva Kincit Karomiti’, I do nothing at all. You did nothing at all. You just played your part. You didn’t know better. But now you know. Because here you are. Here and now.
Thus, neither can we go to the future. Because the cause of an event hasn’t happened yet. So you gotta wait and observe, till the time is right for it to happen. Here comes the fourth wheel of the ‘tetrahedron’ of which the TCI trinity is merely a part of, its called the experience or the observation or something of that sort. Without an observer, these ‘time, change and generation of new information,’ are not perceivable. Without an observer, they do not matter. It’s like a light bulb without the light. If the tree indeed fell in the forest, if nobody knew, and nobody would ever know, that tree never actually fell. So, the experience or the observation of these events has to coexist with them which we are again merely a part of. Isn’t it quite weirdly beautiful something about that? You cannot travel through time, because neither you are on a train, nor time is a rail line. Because you are not really traveling. You are not going anywhere. You are existing. You are staying where you are, here and now.
Do you feel a little cheated? What am I saying? What do I mean by you are not going anywhere? What are we doing then? What is the point of all these? There isn’t a future? What am I doing then? But let’s think about it. I am not saying that there isn’t a future. I am saying there is a future and you are writing it. You are writing your own future. And it matters what you do here and now.
But can you stop it? Can you stop the constant feeling of going nowhere but floating through an abyss, which you are a part of, but do not have any control over it? This constant flow of the tetrahedron? Can you stop the time? Can you really? The answer is you can and you cannot. If you did stop, how would you even know? Everything is stopped around you including you in it. When time stops, the observer in that tetrahedron ceases to experience as well at the same time. Weirdly I am using the word ‘time’ to represent something outside the said time. Because I don’t have the proper word for it. My point is that you can never experience it if time ever did stop. Well, an outside observer might be able to see it, if they are interested in the first place. But we won’t be able to see it as an actor inside this tetrahedron. However, you can slow it down a bit, or you can make it go faster. I do not know how, but you can indeed experience a slow or fast movement of time.
When you fall in love, when you kiss that girl or that guy because that is what you wanted and got it for real. You hold their face and kiss them passionately. You want to love them so much, and then all of a sudden you lose yourself into your thoughts with them in it. You experience it so intensely, everything seems moving so slowly, time almost stops. You feel it, time feels slow. And that is fucking amazing. And then you snooze the morning alarm and wake up after three hours which was intended for a 5-mins of-quick-nap, time goes fast, too fast. And then again time becomes slow when you don’t have internet and you are so sleepy during the lecture. The lecture is fine though, I blame the internet. So my point is, you never intended to make it slow or fast, though. You never planned for it. It just happened, and you just experienced it, it felt good. That is all you gotta do, just sit back and experience, and do what you gotta do.
But, here’s the thing. You are allowed to have hope or despair for the future, a future which you have not seen yet. Because it will bring something on the table, it will give you a purpose. Someone said once, “Do not expect but have hope for the future. You would rather be surprised, but never disappointed.” But we choose to do things a bit differently. Aren’t we the smartest kid in the neighborhood. We try to project our past onto the future by absolutely skipping the present. You try to prepare for the future using all the knowledge you acquired during the past through your experience. Then you try to optimize your steps in order to be the future self in the image of something you hold very dear. But you forget you are here and now. You do not experience the present. You do not enjoy it. Because you are too busy to see the light of the future you have imagined in your mind and you want it so bad. But then you do not seem to pay attention to the future either when it is here in the present, as the present. Because you are again too busy to prepare for the upcoming future. You forget to experience who you really are because you have some ‘perfect’ version of yourself in your mind. And then you want to become someone else because you don’t know who you are. It is a cycle, that leads to nowhere, accomplishes nothing.
So, if you are indeed looking for yourself in this huge mess, you do whatever you FEEL right. Turn that rock, you feel you should turn right now. Do what you gotta do. Because you are what you do and you do what you are. You are who you are, here and now.