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#1. Time only exists in the moment. Period.
#2. The past did exist in the moment at an earlier time.
#3. The future will exist in the moment at a future time.
#4. The present is now -- you reading these words. This moment. The past is #1, #2, #3 you read earlier.
The future is the rest of this blog -- if you continue reading.
In a sense everything that happens, everything that is real is time-stamped. Nothing is real unless it has that time stamp -- even our speculations -- as those speculations, imaginations, fantasies, etc. happen in time -- even our thoughts about probabilities or our delusions happen in time.
Yet the human perception of time, which is linked to memory, which in turn is rooted in brain functions, is quite different from time stamps and clock time.
As living beings with blood going through our veins, we are always moving through time. With every breath and every heart beat, time moves forward -- and not just by seconds like a clock's second hand, but continuously in tenths of a second, or millionths of a second, or nanoseconds (billionths) or even picoseconds (trillionths). We are always in time, we can never be outside of time.
I believe much of the confusion about time is due to mistaking our artificial divisions of seconds and minutes -- which are quite useful for managing time -- with the fundamental nature of time which is indivisible; it is an unbroken stream that flows continuously.
What could a fish tell you about water? Probably not much. It lives in water, it is surrounded by water, it floats and moves in water; water is the world that it lives in -- so a fish is probably unaware of many of the properties of water. I doubt, for example, that it could understand the concept of wetness.
As I quoted in an earlier blog in this series:
A deep-sea fish has probably no means of apprehending the existence of water; it is too uniformly immersed in it...
Sir Oliver Lodge, British scientist
And so, like the fish, we live surrounded, but not by water but by time. There is no way out -- no way around it. While we work with it everyday and every moment, we are so immersed in it, we have trouble grasping its complexities.
Common phrases about time provide some hints about how we operate, phrases like, "she's been through a lot" -- implying that time is something we move though and also that there is no way around it, there is only a way through it.
But even when we try to simplify and focus only on the now moment and the present time, there are complications:
At no point is the present only now, some of it is always future and some always past -- and without this connection between past and future, the now moment and time itself could not exist.
Into the future
Neither from nor towards;
In this shock wave photo of a plane breaking the sound barrier, past, present and future are all in one shot: the nose breaking into the future, a passenger in the middle of the plane in the present and the past trailing behind.
The 'arrow of time' has often been used as a metaphor to describe the relentless headlong movement of time. The now moment is like an arrow that flies always forward: the arrowhead piercing the future, the tail trailing behind and the shaft in the middle, in the present and between them. Without all of the parts: arrowhead, shaft and tail, the arrow could not fly.
My point is this:
Past/present/future are not separate from each other -- this is a misunderstanding and one which can cause a number of problems.
Further this lack of separation is not only true moment to moment but also day to day, week to week and year to year. Past/present/future are inseparable and intertwined.