What Time Is It?

Summer                         Waxing Strawberry Moon

A bit more on time.  Cybermage, Woolly Brother and sheepshead player William Schmidt begs to differ on the notion of cyclical time.  He references the geology of Minnesota and, I imagine, the information about the evolution of the universe which he so wonderfully makes understandable with lights and rope.

It is difficult to understand the two apparently conflicting ways of understanding time, the cyclical view that I suggested yesterday over against the deep time recorded in our genes,  our own earth’s mantle and the red shifted lights in the heavens.  Let me see if I can be a little clearer about what I think.

Instead of time as a characteristic of the natural world, that is, an experience of things occurring in sequence:  t1, t2, t3, t4 out there, beyond the reach of our sensory apparatus, I see it as a means of ordering that same sensory experience, a means imposed on it by our mind’s need for order, order that can have a useful meaning for us.  In other words, time and space, both, in this view, exist to help us survive in a world of chaotic events happening in overwhelming numbers.

They create a sort of mental short hand that gives us a way of predicting, in a probabilistic manner, the outcome of things we perceive as happening outside us, things important to us as an animal:  will that animal be beyond that tree when I shoot this arrow? will the arrow actually travel through the apparent intervening distance and strike the animal?  how long will it take me to hike to the berry patch?  Or, contemporary equivalents:  do I have enough time to go to the grocery store after work and before the kids get home?  Can I fit in a round of golf before the rain predicted at 3 pm?  how long does this flight really take?

Does this a priori understanding of time and space invalidate deep time?  I don’t know.  Does cyclical time invalidate deep time?  I don’t know.  I admit there is one part of me that says, Oh, come on.  The earth is 3 billion years old or so.  The universe 13.5 billion years.  Whatever those words mean, they mean the beginning of  both was a long, long time ago.  Yet, another part of me, ascendant right now, wonders if our conclusions about the passage of time mean what we think they mean.

This much I know for sure, on this planet, at this latitude and longitude, in 365 + days, we will spin around to the summer solstice again.  This I can experience as a non-linear mode of time, a mode of time that relies on the cycles of the natural world rather than on the progression of anything through vast stretches of the  past and on into the infinite future.  This cyclical mode of time I can referent, whereas the notion of yesterday and tomorrow seem to me to be no more than place markers, file cabinets for data.

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