A response for “Einstein’s Dreams” by Alan Lightman
Is time an illusion?
The attributes that human-kind had given time are pointing that the realness of time is in it’s measures. The most ancient units of time are the seasons. We can’t “reallitize” time just by saying – “Oh, this apple got rotten because time happened to it “.
But we are saying (for I don’t know how many years) –
“Oh, it’s been 13 springs since you were born, so it’s time for your rite of passage”.
Reading the book I was thinking that the Idea that time has these physical attributes like flow, direction and duration, is simply a way for us to understand the universe as we walk the distance between birth and death. The fact that we romanticize time ( “it felt like time stoped”, “time flies”) shows how good we are at creating a collective illusion.
To bounce off of that – I really enjoyed reading the “8 May 1905” chapter. In this chapter we see how people differentiate their behavior according to how much time they have left. I interpreted that simply as a metaphor of death. Or perhaps an anti-metaphor. For by knowing our end, we act differently, we move differently and we shed the social norms and illusions we were told since birth. This chapter got me to think how would we live our lives if we knew when our we going to die. Is that better? or worse? I liked the ending of the chapter, where the end of the world is portrayed as free falling, and that gravity is our demise.
The chapter of “14 May 1905” ( “There is a place where time stands still”) was a wonderful take on how do we perceive the direction of time. In this chapter, time is represented as a some sort of sphere, or an orb, that the closest you get to the center, the slower time moves. Where in the center time stands still and “The aromas of dates, mangoes, coriander, cumin are suspended in space”. The idea that we can move inside this orb in either direction – tangent or radial, is very powerful. This chapter is almost cruel in some sort of way. For we can’t in fact slow down time by physically moving in one of the 3 dimensions we have in space. This is our battle, our dream – to be able to slow down happy times, and speed-up writing blog posts… No wonder that the people that choose to stay forever in the middle are parents with their children and lovers. I really enjoyed the notion of how light “is diminished almost to nothing” in the middle, it is a terrible price to pay if you want to be where time stands still.
This book is a great piece on how this formless entity, that utterly controls our lives, could be manipulated only by the thing that created it – us.