Friday, May 18, 2018
The Order of Time
Not long ago, our family spent about a week or so in La Jolla, near San Diego, for Spring Break. While we sat by the beach and watched the waves lap upon the shore, it quite literally seemed, for that moment, as if - time stood still.
And as it turns out, according to a recent book by Physicist Carlo Rovelli, in actual scientific terms, that might have in fact been the case. In his new book, "The Order of Time," Rovelli, surmises that time actually moves faster on the tops of mountains than it does near the flatlands, or ocean. New clocks have been developed, using nuclear magnetic imaging, which make it possible to detect these finite differences in time. The concept is an extension of Einstein's theory of the relativity of time, that time responds to the gravitational pull of large masses. The earth is a large mass. The closer that a clock, or a person for that matter, is to the earth, the slower time moves. In very real terms, a person who lives near the ocean ages less than a person who lives near the mountains. Looking back on it, the time my spent in Colorado Springs, around 6,033 feet above sea level, did seem to move faster than my time spent in Oxnard, at sea level.
Of course, the idea of the relativity of time is not a new idea. The Bible tells us that, "A thousand years in your sight are like a day the has just gone by, or like a watch in the night," (Psalms 90:4). By this description from the book of Psalms, apparently time moves faster for God than it does for humans.
Most people forget that the whole notion of time itself was invented by monks who were trying to figure out how to pray with more regularity, "The first mechanical time devices appeared in late medieval monasteries. Bells driven by weights called monks to the hours of prayer" (Subversive Spirituality, L Paul Jensen, p. 37). It was the invention of railroads, the transcontinental railroad in America, for example, that necessitated the standardization of time. Previously, each town and city had its own clock and those clocks were very far from synchronized with one another. But I digress....
Rovelli's book, the content of which I haven't yet read myself (though I have reviewed several articles and listened to several podcasts about Rovelli), reveals that the notion or idea of time is actually totally a construct of our imaginations. Rovelli says, "We never see time, time is not something we can see or smell or taste or touch. All we are able to do is to watch clocks which measure time." Rovelli has even gone so far as to take the integer of time "T" out of all of his equations. Rovelli says that time is totally a mental construct.
Rovelli says that most people have this idea that the past and the present and the future are three different things, totally different from one another. However, physics is showing us that the difference between the past and the present and the future are all relative. Once again, this seems to reflect the thoughts of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, "Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises" (Ec. 1:5-6).
Reflecting further upon this Rovelli says that, "The only difference between the past and the future is the amount of disorder which lies ahead." In other words, the way to tell the difference between this present moment and the future moments are that in this moment, we know exactly what is happening. For example, I am typing this blog at this computer right now. What will the future hold? Will there be future blogs? We don't know, because the the definition of the future is that it is disordered. Again, Jesus lifts this up in the famous Sermon on the Mount, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself (or in Rovelli's terms, "the future has enough entropy." (Matt. 6:34).
If you are like me, this momentary convergence between the thinking of one modern day physicist and the Bible are head scratching and heartening at the same time. Perhaps the real lesson in all of it is, we should all spend a lot more TIME...
At the beach!
All For Now,