“Science has found that nothing can disappear without a trace. Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation…” Werner Von Braun (Nichols 1962).
“This entire globe, this star, not being subject to death, and dissolution and annihilation being impossible anywhere in Nature, from time to time renews itself by changing and altering all its parts.” Giordano Bruno.
“It never starts it never stops it just goes it never zeroes.” Robert Lindsay, 1979, from an unpublished work of fiction.
As you can see, the notion of beginnings and endings, of births and deaths, is illusory. As something may not come out of nothing (story of my life), yet something may not turn into nothing either. Nothingness may not birth any something, and something may not turn into nothing. It seems that this is occurring all the time, but this is mere illusion.
Instead births or beginnings are simply one form of energy and matter transforming into other, usually more salient one. Endings, deaths, dissolutions, are nothing of the sort. Something has merely transformed into something else, as we saw with beginnings.
Bruno, burned at the stake for heresy by the Inquisition in 1600 as a martyr to science, in part for upholding Copernican astronomy, was ahead of his time. The universe was infinite, as he put it, “many worlds.” All matter was made of atoms. Our world was not the center of the universe or of anything but that it only seems that way.
No position, not up or down or this way or that, is set, as all is relative to the positions of other entities. Life was probably not unique here, and had probably sprung up in many other places in the universe. Comets were the remains of stars, not messages from the Gods. In a sense, everything is connected to everything, prefiguring particle physics. Space was infinite (Bruno is almost the father of infinity) and if Space was infinite, than so must be Time.
And logically, if all of this is true, then Christianity is “wholly false.”
Although he did believe in God, it was a diminished God. This from a Dominican friar who spent most of his time in monasteries!
For the logical cul de sac in italics above, he burned with fire. 13 years later, Galileo barely saved his own skin from similar holy heat.
If space is infinite, then so must be time.
Here we look to the early Jewish Kabbalists, studying in the 1300s-1400s. After centuries of study, they determined that God was “endless bright White Light, extending as far as one can see in every direction.” Or infinitival White Light. Furthermore, God is “that which cannot be known.” Going beyond that, God was “that thought of which man may not even properly entertain.” In other words, God is beyond our mental grasp. He is the Inconceivable.
It is now the hour for a brief discussion about Time. I haven’t read Kant yet, and maybe I can’t, but we will dabble anyway.
First of all, the future simply does not exist. You are all aware of this, right? Quit shaking your heads. The. Future. Does. Not. Exist. Say it until you are blue in the face. What is fascinating about the future is that we all know it doesn’t exist, yet we spend all of our lives pretending that it does exist.
Tomorrow I will…In the future I will…Pretty soon I’m going to…I have an appointment on the…I will be graduating on the…I’ll meet you at the restaurant at two…I’m looking forward to the future.
For something that doesn’t exist, we sure spend a lot of time thinking and talking about it! Worst of all, we prepare for it!
Now we have hopefully established the nonexistence of the future. At some point, sure, the future will exist. For instance, it will probably be 11 PM here in 31 minutes, assuming the world does not blow up. But at exactly that moment 31 minutes from now that the future supposedly exists, it won’t even be the future anymore! It will be another present moment. Follow? Of course you do.
What follows after the end of the last paragraph is that the present does indeed exist. You’d be hard to find a philosopher to disagree with that statement. A poststructuralist might, but they disagree with everything. Ah, so the present exists! But the future does not? Surely not. So we are left with only half of time. Every present moment, plus all of the past.
The next thing we need to ask is if the past exists. This is a very important question. I always figured it did, but a friend told me recently that the past does not exist. It used to exist, but it doesn’t anymore! But of course. He must be correct, no? At one time the past existed, but now it no longer does. How does it exist?
In memories, movies, books, etc. Which are merely objects in the present that made recordings of the past when the past was happening. Now we have eliminated the other half of time, and all we have left are second hands slamming on the clock, beginning and ending so quickly, nearly simultaneously, that we can scarcely put our finger on any moment and call it NOW.
Which now brings us to a rather carpe diem moment, eh? To live logically, we should all act like 80 IQ ghetto types, living for each second and nothing before or after existing. Thank God we don’t all think like philosophers.
There is another view, which is also very present-centric. This one holds once again that the present moment is salient, but that the past and future both exist, but they only exist as part of the present and of each other.
In other words, what has brought us to this present moment? Think about it. The entirety of the weight of the past, tumbling onto our hour like a rock slide, has brought us here, to this most auspicious of bright moments. The past made the present, so it is here with us as the vehicle that brought us here and also as the sculptor which made the present moment what it is.
As the future will in part be determined by the present, and hence also the past, the future also exists in the present, as a potentiality. The past also exists in the future, as the past and present vehicles drive towards the future and create it. Whether or not the present or future exist in the past is more problematic, but perhaps they do, as the earlier seeds that grew the trees of today and tomorrow.
One notion, popularized by Time Theorist Guy Murchie, is that all of the past that has already happened and all of the future that will occur, is, at this moment, all simultaneously present in this, our present moment. The Eternal Now. That’s a bit hard to swallow, but I like the mouth feel.
And that will be it for now, as we are out of Time.
- Bruno, Giordano. 1584. On Cause, Principle, and Unity (De la causa, principio, et Uno).
Murchie, Guy. 1961. Music of the Spheres: The Material Universe from Atom to Quasar, Simply Explained. Cambridge: Riverside Press.
Nichols, William, ed. 1962. The Third Book of Words to Live By (pp.119-120). New York: Simon and Schuster.