Struck by the Arrow of Time

A line from one of my favorite folk songs – sung by Harry Belefonte and made even more famous in the hilarious movie, Beetlejuice – speaks to my belief in the arrow of time. “Jump in the line, rock your body in time. OK, I believe you!”

Perhaps I jumped into my reality at conception – at which time the arrow of time appeared to start for me. Rocking my body through sensation, I became a believer. I believe in reality as I perceive it. And yet, there are problems. Time, for one.

When one looks closely at time, it just sort of vaporizes into nothingness. This behavior causes me to question my understanding of reality.

What does time have to do with my beliefs? How does its weird behavior affect me?

I’m fairly sure that time moves from past to present to future – the arrow of time. I’ve experienced it in this way every day of my life. Never has time reversed or suddenly acted differently than I expected… unless it has!

In 2011, I underwent a surgery that lasted several hours. As I entered the surgery room, I recall looking up at the analog clock on the wall and seeing, 7:00 (AM). I blinked my eyes and in that instant I felt a sensation of complete disorientation. Suddenly, I was looking at another clock on another wall that read 5:00.

“How could I have gone back in time two hours? And where am I?!” I shuddered. Slowly I realized I’d not gone into the past. I’d instantly traveled 10 hours into the future – it was 5 pm! I’d also traveled several hundred feet to another room! Space-time had pulled a trick on me – one that was at once terrifyingly, jarring, and awakening!

I’d lost connection with time and space. It took some time and familiar objects for me to reorient, to reconnect to the reality I recognize as mine.

Questioning My Reality?

Have you ever experienced days or weeks or longer in a dream and upon awakening after a short nap wondered how so much had transpired in such a short while? Or, as I had, experienced the perception of an instant in which much time had elapsed?

My surgery experience got me to wondering about my perception and beliefs about time – and reality based on it. Yes, it had not changed its direction – past progressed into future – arrow direction unchanged. The arrow traveled faster than I expected – and so disoriented my senses. Doesn’t time move according to some standard – like the atomic clock or something? Isn’t a second a second?

Well, maybe not.

Perhaps time, like the US dollar, is disconnected from a solid standard. Einstein theorized and others demonstrated that time is relative to gravity – messing with the arrow of time. Check out the movie, Interstellar, in which a group of astronauts experience a few hours while their companion at the distant docking station experienced almost three decades.

I’ve experienced this type of relativity myself – when I’m having fun, time seems to fly by. Time seems to pass relative to my mood. As I described above, it also seems to be tied to my conscious awareness and belief.

What if the instant I call now is quantum in the same way matter is quantum – appearing to me as I expect it to appear? Perhaps my reality, like time and space, does not exist as I perceive it – it only appears to exist that way – to me! Perhaps the arrow of time is merely a useful concept.

This raises the question, “What is real, then?”

To which I answer, “I don’t know!”

Considering the Seven Degrees of Illumination, questioning my reality may be useful in discovering whatever may be beyond the First-Second Degree bubble of awareness sense of safety in which I contain (maybe imprison?) my consciousness.

What if I presuppose and assume that my perceptions of time-space reality are incorrect? What if I assume that what I’m perceiving is NOT as I perceive it? In any case, then, I may assume that my perception is incorrect, wrong, at least inaccurate. This does not identify me as weak minded. It is perhaps an acknowledgment of a more realistic evaluation of the true nature of the universe and my place within it.

Perhaps a useful question for me might be to ask myself (repeatedly!), “How ELSE could I perceive this?”

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