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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Don't Want the "Used To Be"

Today, from my 62 year-old perspective, I hear people constantly saying "I just want things to be the way they used to be." These disgruntled individuals give me all kinds of great examples of "how great" living was in the past: they desire the past because of the lower cost of living, the better job market, the kinder neighbors and friends, the less stress and aggravation, and the less meddlesome federal government.

I completely understand the blessings of the past of which nostalgic Americans speak. I, too, often think about times decades ago when life seemed easier. In my recollection, I account I lived a good life in my own "good old days." I wouldn't trade being a baby boomer and a teen of the '60s for anything. My personal path has allowed me to reach contentment and look back with a smiling face.

Yet, I have learned finality, and I believe in accepting reality. My past has elapsed -- it has passed. It is gone forever. Period. No fanciful thought or theory is going to bring back any of it. God knows I would change much of what I have done if it were possible to do so. I regret past mistakes, and I realize I must seek atonement for my sins from a higher power. That is best I can do with any ugly remnants from my past. My good memories are merely memorable ornaments that decorate my resting thoughts.

Grower older with the inevitable changes that accompany its wear and tear adds a great measure of ever-swelling doubt about whatever value and meaning I am supposed to draw from my past. I feel even more inadequate to offer words of advice to lead a single individual on his/her unique journey. The only reliable advice I have to give others is to seek all valuable lessons that strengthen the head, the heart, and the soul.

In all honesty, from my present point of view, I don't want to have things the way they "used to be." That would be counterproductive to whatever monumental progress the Master of time intends. (And, believe me, I don't have any frigging idea what that "progress" could be.) In addition, any pining I do on "going back" is wasted time and detrimental to any future I have left. I need no such impediment to the flow (some days "the trickle") of my life.

Thinking About Time

The present has been defined as "an infinitesimally narrow point on the time line which is being encroached upon by what we think of as the past and the future." The present can be symbolized as the sharpest point of the most delicate recording laser. The present is so fleeting that we cannot savor its occurrence or digest its actual existence. Even if it could be recorded, it could not even be measured.

And, what is the concept of time that we call the future? How can anyone actually define such a stretchy fabric of fourth dimension? In our simple brains, the future appears to be a projection created by our past experiences stored in our memory. The future is an indefinite time period we believe occurs after the immediate present. Its arrival is considered inevitable due to the existence of time and the laws of physics. In truth, the future is nothing but anticipation.

The fact that the present which gives us the most real feel of time cannot be measured while the inaccessible past and future can be measured as durations strongly suggests that the way we perceive time is an illusion.

I understand I can study historical concepts of the past, experience actual moments of the present, and plan for ions of the future. Yet, I also understand I cannot effectively create time; I cannot influence its passage; and I certainly cannot say with any certainty what the hell it is. At best, I can marvel at the illusion of there being some "thing" in my life that I label as "time."

I'm no Einstein. And, he even admitted he didn't know exactly what to think about this stuff.

 "People like us who believe in physics know that the distinction between the past, the present and the future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."   
 -Albert Einstein

According to the general theory of relativity, space, or the universe, emerged in the Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago. Before that, all matter was packed into an extremely tiny dot. That dot also contained the matter that later came to be the sun, the earth and the moon -- the heavenly bodies that tell us about the passing of time.

Before the Big Bang, there was no space or time.

"In the theory of relativity, the concept of time begins with the Big Bang the same way as parallels of latitude begin at the North Pole. You cannot go further north than the North Pole," says Kari Enqvist, Professor of Cosmology.

 (University of Helsinki. "What Is Time?." ScienceDaily, 15 April 2005)

One of the most peculiar qualities of time is the fact that it is measured by motion and it also becomes evident through motion.

According to the general theory of relativity, the development of space may result in the collapse of the universe. All matter would shrink into a tiny dot again, which would end the concept of time as we know it.

My Take

I believe we can and we should live better. I, however, doubt if living better means returning to the ideas and methods of the past. We should be open to change and understand that changing is difficult because we stubbornly cling to the comfort zones imprinted by our past. We can never return to the times gone by. Nature and God will not allow that journey. Besides, we have enough on our plates just figuring out what new challenges tomorrow may bring.

What we can realistically do is study the past. We can learn from it and build upon it. As trite as this sounds, we seem to do a lousy job with this obligation. Of course, if you do not believe that anything is worth a damn now, it is asking far too much of you to care about tomorrow. Some of you have read all of the signs and are thoroughly convinced the collapse of the universe is upon us.

One last thought -- I do ask that all the musical recordings of the past stay intact and accessible to old codgers like me. I'll do my time travel with my ears as I travel through illusions captured by that little laser beam of the present.

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