Talking Time: As 2021 ends, 2022 begins

Whatever the mental constructs, hope the year ahead is a storehouse of happy events and good deeds
"Except humans, all animals live in a continual present, with no sense of the temporal distinctions of past, present and future."
"Except humans, all animals live in a continual present, with no sense of the temporal distinctions of past, present and future."Pxhere [Creative Commons]

By convention, 2021 will soon be past, and 2022 will take over as the present. At this juncture, I make an attempt to play with the casual sense of time. I am optimistic that I will be able to take you through past, present and future all at once.

Timelines run parallel but how many of us believe that way? I am sure, if I ask the readers to raise their hands, only a few hands may go up. However, that doesn’t stop the idea from being right.

Except humans, all animals live in a continual present, with no sense of the temporal distinctions of past, present and future.

This is because our life looks like a continuous sequence of events in an apparently irreversible succession from the past, through the present to the future. Everything around us, changes with time. Ten years ago we were not the same as we are today, whether in appearance, or in knowledge, or in experiences. Time is versatile. We can kill time, save it and spend it.

Time even takes on a medicinal role when it comes to healing of wounds, physical and abstract. Most of us wish we had more of it. It is an object of value. It is also the thing which eventually kills all of us. Nobody knows how much time one has.

People die at any age and for any reason. Time represents special milestones, including the happy and tragic moments of life. The acts of worship say the prayer, is also a timed book, performed at an appointed time and not else way. Ask students about the importance of the time when they fail a test. Ask the mother about the importance of time when she is about to give birth. Time is prime.

Our age is the numerical order of this time and we value it relative to our achievements in life. For example, a 20 year old lad is too old if he has not yet finished his school while a 50 year old is quite young to be a prime minister of the country. However these meanings are very superficial. As for instance, New York is 3 hours ahead of California but that does not make California slow. Someone graduated at 22 but waited 5 years before securing a good job. Someone became a CEO at 25 and died at 50. While another became a CEO at 50 and lived to 90 years.

Obama retired at 55 while Trump started at 70. Time provides the necessary conditioning for a wish to fulfil or an act to happen. Despite all its pervasiveness in our everyday conversations, describing time doesn’t come straightaway. Time is one of the great mysteries of nature. Every single thing in the universe is bound to time. A good number of philosophers, teachers and theologians have speculated on the true nature of time.

According to Einstein, our consciousness of time as past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion. Feynman and Hawking also believed that way. Whatever has happened or is happening or is yet to happen is all out there. Our birth and death moments are already at some space time coordinates.

It only depends on our location in Universe. The “past” is just a slice of the universe at an earlier location while the “future” is at a later location. If someone calls me from a remote location, no matter how fast the signal passes, it always takes some time to reach me. He is unable to access my present while he is still in his present. He has rather accessed me in future and I have connected to his past. Time is a relative concept due to which the distinction between past, present and future is a mere illusion. Someones past is the future of someone else.

The only reason we feel we have a past is that our brain contains memories. Past has not happened, future is not unfolding. These have always existed. Imagine playing a recorded video. You can always play it forward and backward.

Nothing is happening in the real time. It has already happened. Our life is also like a DVD though we don’t have the option to rewind, replay or forward it. All of us have a profound experience with time but not in the aforesaid sense or technique.

The technique of expression of Quran is such that the historical distance does not exist in any real, metaphysical or essential sense. Even Shams Faqir has chosen to write Merajnama in present tense. The past events are spoken of as if these exist within our own memories or in a collective human memory, raising those stories out of historical time into a universal time.

That is why we are asked to remember, and recall the things that did not happen in our lifetime. “And remember, We gave Moses the Scripture and the Criterion (between right and wrong) Quran 2:53; And remember Abraham and Isma’il raised the foundations of the House Quran 2:127; And remember We divided the sea for you Quran 2:50; And remember We took your covenant Quran 2:63; Remember Your Lord inspired the angels Quran 8:12; And remember Jesus, the Son of Mary, said.... Quran 61:6 .” Time is an impersonal force, sometimes identified with God. The Apostolic Tradition (ḥadīth) records Muḥammad’s saying that Allah commanded men not to blame dahr [time] “for I [God] am dahr.” It was conceived as a power existing eternally and responsible for the happiness or agony of humanity.

Thus the Quran refers to those who “say… nothing but time can destroy us [45:24/23]”. Life does not mean merely existing. It means moving throug a certain amount of time. Passing of time is instead an illusion. This approach of looking at time gives birth to a whole host of philosophical issues oscillating between free will and determinism, in a well planned lay out of the spacetime coordinates or events. Man is truly helpless in determining the climate of the land in which he is born, in canalising the courses of rivers which flow therein and in determining the nature of the soil thereof.

There are so many other things which are beyond his control, viz. the measure of intellect, the shape and form of his physical structure, his appointed term of life in this world, and the inclinations embedded in his very nature besides the qualities of his head and heart.

Nonetheless, there is a pointed reference to the autonomy conferred upon him when it is said,”Man shall have nothing but that what he strives for.” Whatever the mental constructs, hope the year ahead is a storehouse of happy events and good deeds.

Dr. Qudsia Gani, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, Cluster University Srinagar

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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