Posted by Mike
“Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping–into the future.” It seems obvious, doesn’t it? But somehow, expressed that way, it makes us take another look at time. What on earth is it? We know that it’s happening, but what is it really? Like so many things that we take for granted, we have trouble when we try to narrow down and define what time is. Time is just – well – Time! We can measure its passage, can’t we? Of course. With clocks. But what do clocks do? They are a somewhat artificial way of measuring Time! We humans have made up the concepts seconds, minutes, hours….They are not real, but quite arbitrary ways of helping us to organize this thing that we call time. We can also observe change and the sequence of events occurring in the world as some kind of process. And this brings us very close to something important in our definition. That is–experience. Time is something that we experience and that we can observe, and it relates to sequential events and changes. If we didn’t have time, we likely wouldn’t have events or change; but we really don’t know that, because we do have this thing we call time, and we can’t really know what the universe would be like without it–but my opinion is that there would be nothing there!
Maybe you think I’m belaboring my point—the issue of what time is. What is it? It is basically that time is experiential; it is subjective. It is not tangible, but an intangible, and that it can only be noted through experience, through observation, and through measurements, which don’t clearly define it, but which enable us to present objective examples of its existence and presence.
So many of the things that we talk about as if they are real are like time. They are constructs that have no objective reality that we can see or touch or hear, but we objectify them using examples that are clear and concrete, which if varied and numerous give us a pretty clear picture of what we are talking about. For example, if we were trying to define the construct “love,” we would begin to build up a good idea of what it is from concrete examples of physical affection and caring, events that we can observe – the events themselves and their consequences. Then we would have a fairly clear picture of what love is. That’s the way it actually is with all constructs; we have to bring them down to concrete observables—events that we can see, hear, touch. It’s in the real world that we live and breathe, and it’s from these real things that we can construct the meanings of the intangibles – things like love, and courage, and God, and patience, and war, and peace – and time. In our definitions of all of what we call reality, at bottom we must return to clear observation—shared observations among us all. With our shared observations and agreements, we have notions of what we are talking about. At the more abstract levels we often can agree; but as we become more and more concrete, it might be surprising how much we differ on the significant details. In general, most of us can agree on Time – especially that it keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping – into the future!