History is, quite simply, what we of the present time can make of past times. Yet time, they say, is an illusion.
Those who know more about physics than I do, also say that time and space are the same thing. Space and Space-time are certainly overlapping dimensions. Speed of light creates both. No, I’m not going to quote Einstein nor Hawking. I am naturally summarising here, partly because of my own ignorance, and partly because of the huge subject matter and its enormous complications. Yet even to summarise more fully would be difficult since sufficient space and time are not available to me. Yes – that’s it. Those two definitely go together.
After all, Quantum Physics takes a life-time to study. There goes time again, connecting moments into life-spans – and that means history!
And yet time appears to remain immovably linear while space is manoeuvrable. We can move freely and can play within space, but time plays with us. Certainly the division of the hours follows its rules, and the rolling speed of our ever spinning globe controls the passage of light into night’s darkness as recorded by our clever and careful clocks. But that is not what I mean by time. Real time is the prison of linear direction somehow combined with the lunacy of the watched kettle taking twice as long to boil, and the minutes feeling like hours when you are waiting for something important, while the sad days are never-ending. Yet those delightful times of light-hearted diversion, the fun, the love-making and the holidays from self-imposed duty – those whizz by like little sparks in our hearts. Illusion, then. But time is an illusion that traps us within it.
So is history all around us? Everything, after all, is the present. It was the present during the invasions of the Romans and the Norman usurper William, during the Hundred Years War and the Battle of Bosworth, during the massacres of Tudor times and the English Civil Wars – deaths in their thousands – all taking place in the brief and bitter NOW. Time of course is the actual division between life and death. Life means counting time until time finishes and slips from NOW into NEVER.
But this is not an article about dying. It is simply a pondering puzzle concerning the treatment time meets out to us. It is rarely kind. Space is a friend, but time is not. Indeed the NOW is always a snap and then gone – and we have not yet discovered the power to bring it full circle.
So can time ever be something more that the straight line in which we view it? We dream of time travel, with the power to go back and see what we call history. We are intrigued with the Sci-Fi ideas of black holes, worm tunnels, and all the scientific jargon which appears, even without our full understanding, to offer hope of time-travel. After all, playing with time is a perennially delightful idea – even if the possibility is always in what we call – the future!!
So we think time is a predictable business, and we think we know the rules, whether we like them or not. Look at the clock! Already half past nine? Bed time! Time for work. Time to catch the bus, to make dinner, to phone your sister. We let time rule our lives. Yet time is none of these things and we don’t understand it at all.
Synchronicity – a word adopted by Jung – introduces us to the malleability of time – or perhaps once more to the illusionary nature of its barriers. So, Jung says, different things happening at the same moment are linked and therefore the right thing will happen at the right time. No – that’s not right. NOW is all there is, so I should say – the right thing IS happening at the right time!
We invariably live in the past, with memories controlling what we think we have learned. In fact, many of us seem to believe that the wake we leave behind us somehow rules our futures. Others live in the future with only hope to inspire our present moments as we endlessly plan for something to come. Yet none of that actually exists. Neither past nor future are real. Only NOW has ever been, or ever will. And the NOW is so brief that we cannot notice it at all. So is the only truth of time something we cannot even claim to know? Is it beyond us to even live it?
Energy comes from the light and light is governed by speed. Speed is time. So time is energy. If we travelled back, would we forfeit our energy and therefore our life force? Would we glimpse – collapse – and even fail to return? Would splitting the NOW leave us bereft of breath or life? Now much as I yearn to see the truth of medieval life in England during the late 15th century, I have not the slightest desire to be trapped there.
Alright, so we recognise that NOW means energy, for indeed the only time we choose to live fully in the NOW and recognise the present moment, is when we are excited, fully involved in what the NOW brings us and when we are delighted with what we are actually doing. Otherwise the NOW spins unnoticed and blinks its death into the past. So is history really a part of the present anyway? In which case, is history all around us and are we time travelling all the time quite unconsciously?
But if we can escape the trap of One-Directional Time (no, nothing to do with the British boy-pop-group – sorry!) – by travelling backwards then surely we could manage both forwards and sideways. Now, I wonder where sideways would lead me!!
I am just finishing a book based around time travel, with someone coming back from the distant future. (It’s a pleasant change from medieval history, and I’ve enjoyed writing it.) FUTURE TENSE – but heaven only knows when it will become history itself. I wrote a previous book (FAIR WEATHER) in which time travel played a part – but that involved going backwards. This new book involves going forwards. I have an idea for the sideways as well. Time holds hands with astronomy and so I have dark matter and worm holes. Nothing one-directional at all.
As I am almost constantly involved in historical research, I am inevitably faced with one
repetition – where is the
proof? Even when some existing contemporary document is found, we have to
contend with the writer’s bias, his possible ignorance due to distant or
non-existent involvement, or his desire to make himself sound knowledgeable by
repeating rumour as if it is fact. All three such situations are more common
than the really trustworthy contemporary sources. So have we much hope of
properly understanding history? And that leads me to ask – what is truth? We
often quote the cliché of history being written by the winners. No concept of
reality then? But does truth still seem like the obvious incontrovertible fact?
And yet it isn’t, for truth, as noted above, is something quite different to
different people. We each have our own truths. Like time, truth is actually a
very personal affair. As Blake said, “Everything that is now, was once
imagined.” I like that and it seems true enough. Does this also make everything
an illusion? Or does it make imagination the ultimate truth?
So what does all this come down to? Perhaps that’s all a part of personal choice as well! But writing FUTURE TENSE has taken me on a delicious trip into quantum physics. Which brings up all that confusion about whether light travels in waves or particles – and how we do not know which it actually is until afterwards (once the NOW is over and so truth no longer exists anyway) – and the ‘afterwards’ implies time – so does time itself travel in different ways – ways which cannot be quantified until ‘after’ the event? And if nothing is concrete until we see it, in other words until the NOW, then do we ourselves make the choice of what we see, what can be seen, how we see it and when we can see it? Do we control time and space ourselves? Is truth really our own, existing only as an individual and subjective choice?
Which brings me personally to the conclusion that nothing and everything is real – time moving only in one direction is a limit of our own imagination – space is conditional on our own choices – and truth is entirely illusionary.
And therefore if we can see it differently, making our decisions within the illusion, can we also make the choice to travel backwards? Can we dispense with the Tardis, and travel within our own minds? Do tunnels exist in dark matter? And if time is an illusion, are we trapped within that illusion – or is the illusion trapped within us?
Excuse me, my Time is up – and I’m off back to medieval England, to discover another NOW. Waves or particles, anyone?