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Re: Where Is Now? The Paradox Of The Present

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  • schatzman
    awesome post. ... look back in time.
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 28, 2011
      awesome post.

      >The night sky is a time machine. Look out and you
      look back in time.<

      I don't believe that. I just see points of light. Now what?

      --- In meditationsocietyofamerica@yahoogroups.com, medit8ionsociety <no_reply@...> wrote:
      > by Adam Frank
      > From the NPR website:
      > The night sky is a time machine. Look out and you
      > look back in time. But this "time travel by eyesight"
      > is not just the province of astronomy. It's as close
      > as the machine on which you are reading these words.
      > Your present exists at the mercy of many overlapping
      > pasts. So where, then, is "now"?
      > As almost everyone knows, when you stare into the
      > depths of space you are also looking back in time.
      > Catch a glimpse of a relatively nearby star and you
      > see it as it existed when, perhaps, Lincoln was
      > president (if it's 150 light-years away). Stars
      > near the edge of our own galaxy are only seen as
      > they appeared when the last ice age was in full
      > bloom (30,000 light-years away). And those giant
      > pinwheel assemblies of stars called galaxies are
      > glimpsed, as they existed millions, hundreds of
      > millions or even billions of years in the past.
      > We never see the sky as it is, but only as it was.
      > Stranger still, the sky we see at any moment defines
      > not a single past but multiple overlapping pasts of
      > different depths. The star's image from 100 years ago
      > and the galaxy image from 100 million years ago reach
      > us at the same time. All of those "thens" define the
      > same "now" for us.
      > The multiple, foliated pasts comprising our present
      > would be weird enough if it was just a matter of
      > astronomy. But the simple truth is that every aspect
      > of our personal "now" is a layered impression of a
      > world already lost to the past.
      > To understand how this works, consider the simple
      > fact, discussed in last week's post, that all we
      > know about the world comes to us via signals: light
      > waves, sound waves and electrical impulses running
      > along our nerves. These signals move at a finite
      > speed. It always takes some finite amount of time
      > for the signal to travel from the world to your
      > body's sensors (and on to your brain).
      > A distant galaxy, a distant mountain peak, the not
      > very distant light fixture on the ceiling and even
      > the intimacy of a loved one's face all live in the
      > past. Those overlapping pasts are times that you �
      > in your "now" � are no longer a part of.
      > Signal travel time constitutes a delay and all
      > those overlapping delays constitute an essential
      > separation. The inner world of your experience is,
      > in a temporal sense, cut off from the outer
      > world you inhabit.
      > Let's take a few examples. Light travels faster
      > than any other entity in the physical universe,
      > propagating with the tremendous velocity of
      > c = 300,000,000 m/s. From high school physics
      > you know that the time it takes a light signal
      > moving at c to cross some distance D is simply t = D/c.
      > When you look at the mountain peak 30 kilometers
      > away you see it not as it exists now but as it
      > existed a 1/10,000 of a second ago. The light
      > fixture three meters above your head is seen not
      > as it exists now but as it was a hundred millionth
      > of a second ago. Gazing into your partner's eyes,
      > you see her (or him) not for who they are but for
      > who they were 10-10 of a second in the past. Yes,
      > these numbers are small. Their implication,
      > however, is vast.
      > We live, each of us, trapped in our own now.
      > The simple conclusions described above derive,
      > in their way, from relativity theory and they seem
      > to spell the death knell for a philosophical stance
      > called Presentism. According to Presentism only
      > the present moment has ontological validity. In other
      > words: only the present truly exists; only the
      > present is real.
      > Presentism holds an intuitive sway for many people.
      > It just feels right. For myself, when I try and
      > explore the texture of my own experience, I can't
      > help but feel a sense of the present's dominance.
      > Buddhism, with its emphasis on contemplative
      > introspection, has developed a sophisticated
      > presentist stance concerning the nature of reality.
      > "Anyone who has ever mediated for anytime" the
      > abbot of a Zen monastery once told me "finds that
      > the past and future are illusions."
      > Yes, but ...
      > The reality that even light travels at a finite
      > speed forces us to confront the strange fact that,
      > at best, the present exists at the fractured center
      > of many overlapping pasts.
      > So where, then, are we in time? Where is our "now"
      > and how does it live in the midst of a universe
      > comprised of so many "thens"?
      > -------------------------------------------------------
      > Shared here for non-commercial and for educational
      > purposes only and thus under the Fair Use Statutes.
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