Friday, August 18, 2017

What Does It Mean To Exist?

What Is Existence?

"Diagram from one of René Descartes' works."
I think, therefore I am.
René Descartes
Also: Cogito ergo sum
Je pense, donc je suis 
"A fuller form, penned by Antoine Léonard Thomas, aptly captures Descartes’s intent: dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum ("I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am"). The concept is also sometimes known as the cogito.
"Descartes asserted that the very act of doubting one's own existence served—at minimum—as proof of the reality of one's own mind; there must be a thinking entity—in this case the self—for there to be a thought." Quoted from:
Please read how Descartes shaped our modern world 
and our modern sense of time 
which is explained at the bottom of this blog. 

Portrait of Rousseau dressed in an Armenian outfit.
I feel, therefore I am.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
(a distillation of Rousseau's thought)

"I felt before I thought," wrote Rousseau
or as e.e. cummings wrote,
"since feeling is first"

I continue, therefore I am.
Rick Doble

Yet even more fundamental than thought or feeling
is that awake or asleep we continue
and keep on going as long as we exist

From the moment you are conceived to the moment you die, you continue.
When a species of animals no longer continues, it is extinct.


Descartes And 'The Grid'
Of The Modern World

Descartes essentially invented the modern world from my point of view.  In a sense, he defined what it means TO EXIST in our contemporary societies because he invented "the grid" which is how the hi-tech world functions.

With his Cartesian coordinate system he assigned a mathematical value to any point in space. His idea of accurately describing space with an X/Y grid (for 3D a third axis Z was added) has become the basis for both the design and the operation of computers, GPS, airline traffic, cell phones, TV screens etc. When time is added as a fourth coordinate, just about anything can be imagined, placed, located and tracked in space and time. But for time to work as the fourth coordinate, time has to be our modern precise regulated synchronized atomic clock time with defined world time zones.

(Left) The original Cartesian X/Y graph. X = the horizonal line (axis), Y=  the vertical line (axis). Any point in the graph can be determined and also placed with these two numbers. 
(Middle) By adding a third aixis Z an object can be described in 3 dimensions. 
(Right) By adding time as a fourth dimension, as in this construction work schedule, time and place can be graphed and events can be planned. In this case the time schedule might refer to X/Y/Z graphs showing what was to be done and where in a certain time period during construction.

(Left) A mathematical structure visualized in a graph.
(Middle) A structure for a possible domed roof for a building.
(Right) A 'random walk' accurately mapped out with  X/Y/Z coordinates.

Representation of the trajectory of aircraft on an air traffic control radar screen.
On this screen space and time are represented. The x/y/z position of the aircraft is available as is the time for that aircraft at a given position..Our modern technology can pinpoint all four coordinates to display, document or record a time period in the life of an airplane.

Descartes And A Fly = The Cartesian Coordinates
"The coordinate system we commonly use is called the Cartesian system, after the French mathematician René Descartes (1596-1650), who developed it in the 17th century. Legend has it that Descartes, who liked to stay in bed until late, was watching a fly on the ceiling from his bed. He wondered how to best describe the fly's location and decided that one of the corners of the ceiling could be used as a reference point."Imagine the ceiling as a rectangle drawn on a piece of paper: taking the left bottom corner as the reference point, you can specify the location of the fly by measuring how far you need to go in the horizontal direction and how far you need to go in the vertical direction to get to it. These two number are the fly's coordinates." 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Time-Flow Photography

 My Birthday Blog: 
 This is the 5th year I have posted a blog on my birthday 

Experimenting With Slow Shutter Speed Digital Photography

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."
~ Albert Einstein ~

In 2000 I crossed an invisible threshold
one that other photographers could have crossed
but which few had

Deliberately, I bought a digital camera
that would expose for seconds
and not fractions

I had guessed that there was a world
unseen and that the new technology
with its instant feedback
would give me the tool I needed

Later I would understand
that my life had been leading to this point:

A notebook about Einstein and space-time
written at age thirteen

and my decade long detour into computers
plus my study of Muybridge's figures in motion

meant that I was up-to-speed
with the new photographic medium
still in its infancy

Not understanding the dimensions
of this world at first
it took a while to get my bearings

I did it step by step:

First mounting a tripod
next to the dash
so that my camera peered
through the windshield
into the dark vanishing point
of the highway

For 8 seconds
points of light stretched across time
until the shutter closed –

now strung with bright yellow dashes
from blinking warning lights,

now streaked blood red from top to bottom
with brake and stop lights

as I slowed into stalled traffic

Prowling the highways
I cruised the dark back streets and brightly lit bridges

and coasted through the city's main drag,
all the while keeping my eye peeled
for flashing lights
neon, areas of glass and
shiny metal that added reflections

I did this
on clear nights or
when a low cloud cover lit the sky

I did this in hard rain, drizzle and mist –
the wetness acting like a mirror and a lens

After months
I pulled the camera off the tripod
and shot handheld –
the wavy lines more interesting
than the straightness
imposed by the tripod

Soon I parked the car
and panned in rhythm
to cars creeping through the downtown

or people walking on the waterfront

Then against the blackness
I took 8 second shots of my wife
from the passenger side
as she drove her car
lights streaming behind her

And later musicians on stages
their movement painted
against the blank canvas
of the night

Somewhere along the way
I began to 'get it'

What I was doing was expressive
– as I had hoped –
but more than that
these shots were glimpses
of movement through time

Where the passing moment
was now smeared across the frame

NOTE: This poem is from a book of auto-biographical poems 
I wrote about my creative evolution and the creative process in 2010.
You can view and/or download a free PDF copy of  my book by clicking on this link:

Friday, June 30, 2017

Now Free Online: 3rd Edition eBook of Deconstructing Time in PDF format

Complete Collection Of This Blog
 In PDF Format 
 3rd Edition 
Free to view online or download
 Click on links at the bottom of this blog
 to view and/or download 

It's been almost three years since I updated the eBook version of this blog: DeconstructingTime. This 3rd edition eBook is well over 500 pages long.

Deconstructing Time is an eBook about the human experience of time. This 3rd Edition is almost twice the size of the 2nd Edition and is organized into sections. With over 500 pages, 60+ articles and 400+ photographs and diagrams, this book covers the human experience of time starting with human biology through the Paleolithic time period to our modern concept of time and includes personal and cultural aspects of time. This fully illustrated work is the result of almost five years of independent research from 2012 - 2017.  

These articles were first published here in Doble's blog DeconstructingTime which has recorded over 50,000 page views and has been seen by readers in more than half the countries of the world. Individual blog articles were also published separately for the academic community as PDF documents at and and have recorded over 2000 views and downloads. Doble's work has consistently been in the top 2-5% of documents accessed at A number of articles have been reprinted on the Internet by various websites.

This eBook is published under the Creative Commons Copyright, so that scholars, students and researchers and others can use the information in this book without permission as long as they credit Rick Doble and the name of the eBook.

View this PDf document online at and/or download:

You can also download from

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

3rd Edition eBook of DeconstructingTime Coming Soon

Complete Collection Of This Blog
In eBook & PDF Format
3rd Edition
Free to view online or download

It's been almost three years since I updated the eBook version of this blog: DeconstructingTime. In the next month of so I plan to add these last three years to the most recent edition, the 2nd Edition, and also organize the blog-essays into relevant sections. The final eBook should be well over 500 pages long.

So stay tuned! When the eBook is finished, I will publish it in eBook epub format with an official ISBN number for libraries and other cataloging services and also in PDF format. In addition I will copyright this 3rd Edition under a Creative Commons copyright -- which means that scholars, artists, educators, etc. will be able to quote and use my information without any problems as long as I am credited.

The 2nd Edition was published in September 2014 and you can get a copy of it in either PDF or eBook format at these addresses. You can view and or download the PDF version at this address, but you must download the eBook version as it cannot be viewed online.

PDF Version of eBook: Deconstructing Time, 2nd Edition: Illustrated Essay-Blogs About the Human Experience of Time

Epub Version of eBook: Deconstructing Time, 2nd Edition: Illustrated Essay-Blogs About the Human Experience of Time

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Creation Myths and Consciousness

The Metaphor of Consciousness in Creation Myths

Recently I came across the book creation myths by David Maclagan. He emphasized that words and language were frequently key elements in creation stories around the world. Often words spoken by God or gods were what created the universe.

For example a Christian website said the following:
God spoke the universe into existence by a word. 
Genesis 1:20-21, 24 "And God said... and it was so."

It is well established that many 'primitive' (for lack of a better word) rituals and myths were/are based on metaphors derived from human existence and that these were/are used to explain or to tell stories about the world in general. For example, a number of creation stories involve an egg, a womb, a pregnancy, a birth, a mother and a father. These clearly are metaphors taken from the human condition.

The "attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities and is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology" according to Wikipedia and is known as anthropomorphism and also personification. 

(Left) A personification of winter in the form of "Old Man Winter."
(Right) A personification of the North Wind blowing in a storm.

What struck me was that 'words' are uniquely human. Further I believe that the invention of language and the development of language was a key element in the development of human consciousness. This led me to the idea of consciousness itself and how it came about -- a major question in science today.
For more about the development of consciousness see my blog:The Human Revolution: Symbolic Culture 
David Maclagan makes the following point in his book creation myths about the unique power of language.
Because of its unique correspondence to the structure of the world -- because in effect, by articulating it, it creates that structure -- language has a power that is more than notative or descriptive.
I would also say this about the power of language: Separate tribes, separate groups of people each developed their own language. Their words were interconnected within their language and interconnected in relation to their culture and in relation to the world at large. So each language created a complicated virtual world that had a reality all its own and that was shared by those who spoke it.

The journey from preconsciousness to consciousness must have been quite remarkable. But it was conscious verbal humans who invented stories of how the world came to exist. Since language had in a sense helped in the birth of their consciousness, it was also the perfect metaphor for how God or the gods created the Universe. 

So it occurred to me that some of these creation myths could also be stories of humans becoming conscious. To say it another way, the story of human beings building a complete and complex symbolic world through language -- in a sense creating a conscious world that had not existed before and which clearly separated them from all the other animals -- might have been the metaphorical basis for a number of creation myths. Humans creating a virtual world with words became a metaphor for God or gods using words to create the world. 

(Left) Athena was, among other things, the goddess and personification of wisdom.
(Right) A figure who is the personification of geometry.

But there is another aspect to this use of language. The word 'word' is derived from the Latin verbum in which 'word' often indicates an action. 
...the nature of the world as we know it is marked, not only by man's material techniques, but by his use of language. The very word 'poetry' comes from a root which means 'to make'.               David Maclagan, creation myths
'Word' is used in the sense of 'making' in the very first sentences in the Gospel of John in the New Testament of the Bible.

The Gospel of John (King James Version)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

As I have pointed out in my essay on language, actions in all languages are given a kind of time stamp, such as actions in the past, present or future. So not only does the 'word' create the world through actions, it also adds the element of time and places the world in time.

The old man who is a personification of the year just past (right) hands over the symbols of time, the scythe and the hour glass, to the young baby (left) who is the personification of the New Year.
BLOG: How Our Concept of Time Is Embedded & Derived from Our Language
A comprehensive study of creation stories and myths concluded that all of them included an understanding of time -- and this understanding was conveyed in the language of the culture in the telling of the creation myth.
In addition to reveling or expressing essential elements of particular cultures, creation myths, when compared, reveal certain universal or semi-universal patterns or motifs. The first and most important of these is the fact that the creation myth always expresses the given culture's, and, by extension, the overall human place and role in time and space; in the world and the cosmos. [ED: bolding is my emphasis]  David A. Leeming, Creation Myths of the World - An Encyclopedia


There is a modern account of a person who went from a preconscious state to a conscious one, the story of Helen Keller. Her account shows remarkable similarities with some creation myths.
See more about Helen Keller and her journey into consciousness in my blog: Time & Consciousness
Some one was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness [ED: my emphasis]...and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that "w-a-t-e-r" meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!  Helen Keller
Helen also said the following -- which is an edited composite of some things she wrote:
Once I knew only darkness and stillness.
My inner life, then, [ED: before consciousness] was...without past, present, or future.
It was not night—it was not day. .      .      .      .      . 
But vacancy absorbing space, 
And fixedness, without a place; 
There were no stars—no earth—no time—



This story is from the second and fourth Brahmanas of the Brhad-arayaka Upanishad, which was written in India in the 700s or 600s B.C. The principal actor in this story can be taken to be Praja-pati, the Lord of Creation, or Brahma the Creator. (Quoted from the website listed next.)

In the beginning there was absolutely nothing, and what existed was covered by death and hunger. He thought, "Let me have a self", and he created the mind.


Rigveda X 129
The Rigveda is part of the sacred texts of Hinduism known as the Vedas.
Veda means knowledge, i.e., awareness, consciousness.

Was neither Being nor Non-Being then...
No sign to mark day from night...

Poets, seeking by reflection in their selves
Made out, within Non-Being, Being's thread.

From David Maclagan, creation myths

Australian Aborigine

From an Australian Aborigine creation story:
There was a time when everything was still. All the spirits of the earth were asleep - or almost all. The great Father of All Spirits was the only one awake. Gently he awoke the Sun Mother. As she opened her eyes a warm ray of light spread out towards the sleeping earth. The Father of All Spirits said to the Sun Mother,
"Mother, I have work for you. Go down to the Earth and awake the sleeping spirits. Give them forms."
Quoted from this website:


The Popol Vuh is the  creation story of the Quiche Maya of Guatemala. 
In this story, "the first real men are given life by the sole power of the word: 'It is said they only were made and not formed; they had no father, they had no mother...Only by a miracle, by means of incantation, were they created and made by the Creator.'"
David Maclagan, creation myths


In Genesis from the Old Testament of the Bible God creates the world with words:
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  
After that He creates the rest of the world by speaking His commands.
Further He creates the stars so that humans can tell time
And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years..."
Then He gives humans the power to invent their own words:
And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field;  

It could be argued that when Adam and Eve ate from the 'tree of knowledge of good and evil' and because of that told God that they were naked and felt ashamed, that they had reached full consciousness. The innocence of preconsciousness, in which nakedness was be natural, was now lost to them.
NOTE: When the 'tree of knowledge of good and evil' was mentioned, the word 'knowledge' in Hebrew can also mean awareness. This also ties in with the notion of consciousness,since consciousness from the Latin means 'with knowledge' and after all what is knowledge but awareness. With this interpretation, then, eating the fruit from the 'tree of awareness' caused a separation from the original state of oneness with nature -- and also indicated a separation since good and evil are particularly human and not animal concerns. For more about this please see:  

As I wrote in my blog (see link next) The cost of becoming conscious was quite high. Before consciousness humans had been part of nature. When they developed full consciousness, they were removed and separated from nature.
"Man is distinguished above all animals by his self-consciousness, by which he is a 'rational animal'."   Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason
See my blog: The Development of Consciousness & the Origins of Religion 

In 1900 an allegorical woman representing the dawn and hope of the 20th Century holds "a standard identifying her as "XXth Century". She has an electric light bulb atop her head and stands on a winged wheel, representing Progress." 
Quoted from:


The central idea of this blog-essay is pure speculation on my part. Yet I do believe there is a good chance that some creation myths contain information about how human consciousness occurred. In the quest to understand the beginnings of human consciousness, these myths might be a good place to start and could yield valuable clues about how consciousness developed.

Book Cited:
Maclagan, David. creation myths. New York: Thames & Hudson, Inc., 1977.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Proposal for a University Department for 'The Study of Time'


by Rick Doble


Today circular repeating time (right)  is being replaced with 
linear time as the digital clock on the left shows.

Time is the most used noun in the English language according to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. This is probably true for most other languages as well. 

Time is critical to everything we do as individuals, as nations, and as human beings who inhabit the Earth. Consider: On your gravestone will be your name and the date you were born and the date you died. Time is that important.

There are, however, distinctly different ways of dealing with and understanding time in countries and cultures around the world. Further, time has been understood quite differently throughout human history. While the physics of time is fascinating, the critical area of concern for us as homo sapiens sapiens is the human experience of time -- as our experience and our ability to understand time is crucial for our survival as a species.

Because the human experience of time is so important, I propose that there should be departments at a number of universities for 'The Study of Time'. I find it odd, that while science is forging ahead with significant studies on a variety of topics from brain studies to climate change, there are virtually no university departments for The Study of Time.

I have a Master of Arts in Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I am a great believer in the importance of academic studies because they can focus on important issues and guide the discussion and inquiry with professional rigor. But this kind of work is not being done by universities, as far as I can see.

These departments should NOT be about the physics of time such as that of Einstein and the theory of relativity, but instead time as we humans experience it from 9-5 on workdays, during time off on weekends, from New Years to New Years year after year and from generation to generation.

Yet there are few studies about the many different aspects of time other than time and motion studies for factories, i.e., studies only for commercial purposes. 

A search of the Internet revealed that there are two principle centers for the study of time:

The Centre for Time at the University of Sydney in Australia

The International Society for the Study of Time
This society was founded by J.T. Fraser who almost single handedly mapped out areas of time that should be investigated.

In addition I found only one university course that is currently being taught about the human experience of time, yet even so it is only offered every other year during the fall semester:

Course Listing:
KULH1112 - Fast Forward -The Cultural History of Time: Texts, Things, and Technologies
The University of Oslo
Course content: In the course we will focus on time as a cultural and historical phenomenon and explore how experiences of time have changed throughout history, mainly in the Western world. 


Our understanding of the passage of time, plus our human perception of the future and what to do about it, may determine the fate of our species. 

A good example is climate change or global warming. If climate change happens quickly it will be hard to adapt; if it happens slowly, then we could learn how to cope and make plans to deal with, for example, rising sea levels. The amount of time we have and the time needed to understand climate change and to build technologies that deal with climate change is pivotal for the survival of the human race. But just as important is the time it will take to develop the political will on a global scale that can deal with the consequences and modifications of our fast moving (there's that time thing again) technology that has led to climate change in the first place. Humans can handle day to day, month to month, and year to year time quite well. However, longer term time demands are problematic. 

I believe that a comprehensive study of time as outlined below will yield answers. This study will begin to reveal how humans relate to time and consequently how important issues can be framed that take this relationship into account.

However, coming to terms with climate change is only the most urgent aspect. There are many other ways that an investigation of our relation to time could affect life-styles, cultures, businesses, commerce and a sense of well-being for the individual. 

Yet we often lack the most basic vocabulary. I have proposed, for example, that we think of 'hard time' as time that is unforgiving and irreversible such as the death of a parent or a car accident and 'soft time' meaning flexible time that can be changed or managed such as going to the store today or waiting until tomorrow. There are quite a few aspects of time that need to be explored such as terminology. These can work toward developing a sophisticated understanding that will make us more aware of how time operates and also make us better able to work with time and to be more comfortable with time demands.


The following 10 areas of study could be included in such a department -- with examples of essays from my blog DeconstructingTime:

Modern Time Technology: 
This area of study would include the increasing accuracy and standardization in the keeping of time along with the coordination of time and how these have affected human societies. It would also include a study of new technologies that can record time related events such as photography, film and music and how these have changed the human relation to time.

How Photography Changed Time: Part 1

How Photography Changed Time: Part 2

The Environment & War Technology

A Revolution in Time

Today time is exact worldwide, 
since Internet time is synchronized to an accurate atomic clock. 

Language and Symbolic Thinking: 
This area of study would include how concepts of time are part of all languages and how those concepts differ. It would also include how cultures share symbolic structures for a shared understanding of time.

How Our Concept of Time Is Embedded & Derived from Our Language

The Human Revolution: Symbolic Culture

Virtual Human Meta-Time

Prehistoric and Ancient Timekeeping: 
This area of study would include how time was marked and understood in the past.

The Ancient Manipulation of Time: Part 1

The Ancient Manipulation of Time: Part 2

Computing the Winter Solstice at Newgrange:  Was Neolithic Science Equal To or Better Than Ancient Greek or Roman Science?

Winter Solstice Celebrations: Roman Saturnalia and Modern Christmas

The neolithic Newgrange passage tomb in Ireland was able 
to determine the time of the winter solstice 5000 years ago. 
The passageway was carefully designed to align 
with the rising sun on the day of the solstice.

This area of study would include how each culture teaches its children about time during the education process.

School's Most Important Subject: Time

This area of study would include how business affects and changes a culture's relation to time.

Modern Time: Time as a Commodity

The Individual: 
This study would include an understanding of how the human psyche deals with time demands, especially time on and off the clock.

Choosing Your Personal Time-Style

The Future: 
This area of study would include how human societies make predictions about the future and then make decisions based on those predictions to build and plan for the future.

The Protective Bubble of Civilization

Global Warming & The Future: Part 1

Global Warming & The Future: Part 2

This area of study would include how the human brain has a unique sense of time unavailable to other animals.

Animal Senses Compared to the Human Sense of Time (my most popular essay)

Art and Sport: 
This area of study would include how various art forms and cultural forms use time.

Games & Time

How Culture Plays With Time

This time lapse series shows the motion of a baseball pitcher. 
Time and motion is at the heart of sports' contests.

The Nature Of The Human Sense Of Time:

Time & The Human Sense of Duration

Continuity & Time

Patterns & Memory

New Terminology About Time


The above areas of study are, of course, merely suggestions. Each department would need to decide how it would organize it's field. 

The above linked essays were derived from my blog: 

See the 3 Year Index for these blogs divided into categories:

But isn't the Department of History about time you might ask? In a word, no, not at all. History is about events and the sequence of events. History does not generally deal with the nature of time itself. History will be important in my proposed department but it will be a history of how humans have understood and dealt with time.