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Philosophy for the Modern Age

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  • Ted Nicholas
    Hello all: This is a rather lengthy one. A chapter from a light-hearted philosophy book I m playing around with. Attempting to be humorously profound, or
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 29, 2002
      Hello all:
      This is a rather lengthy one. A chapter from a light-hearted
      philosophy book I'm playing around with. Attempting to be humorously
      profound, or profoundly humorous, or something like that. Enjoy, or
      don't. :-)

      It's Time! Really! A discussion of time and reality.
      Is this reality really real?

      What is Time? Do the passing moments really exist? Or is time just
      a concept that man invented? What about reality, Is this life really
      "real?" Philosophers of all types have debated these questions for
      thousands of years.
      Here's my first thought on the above questions. What difference
      does it make? Why should we even care? Our lives will not be changed
      in any way by gaining this information. Let's say you do find the
      "Hmmm, I have found proof that reality is "real!" Time and reality
      really do exist! Okay, time to walk the dog, take out the trash,
      Why are these questions so important to humanity? I guess "For the
      sake of knowledge," is one reason why. Cool, now we can write it down
      and lock it away for the ages. Humans always want to know "why,"
      myself included. Why do we want to know "Why?" What causes us to ask
      questions, and seek answers that will not change our day to day lives
      in any way? Why should we care if this reality is "real?"
      What if you discover it is not real? What if you discover that
      reality is just a dream, a hallucination? What are you going to do,
      wake up? What if you can't wake up? The dog is still going to need a
      Let's say you find out that reality IS "real." It's not a dream or
      hallucination. Now what? The dog is still whining for a walk. Are you
      going to ignore what you would normally do, just because reality is
      I guess that my point is... we should focus on the here and now a
      little more often. Many people tend to look at what they don't have
      rather than what they DO have. They work and slave for some hoped for
      lifestyle in the future which rarely turns out as they planned it.
      This is not to say that you shouldn't work towards your goals, but
      remember that the rest of your life is still waiting for you as well.
      What was John Lennon's line from that song, "Life is what happens
      while you are busy making other plans." Or a different saying, "Stop
      and smell the flowers along the way." Another one, "It's not the
      destination that makes life, it's the journey." All of these sayings
      are so true.
      Should we give up all hopes of a specific future, stop working
      towards our goals and just live here and now? Some of us should and
      some of us shouldn't. Most of us would starve. Current society is not
      structured for that lifestyle. It seems to me that a mixture of both
      is best for my own life. Today's world does not allow most people to
      live here and now. Paying bills, working long hours, kids, meals,
      households, cars, parties, going out on the town, etc., etc., etc.
      There is only so much time in one day. How much more can we possibly
      throw in there? Faster transportation, faster computers, faster food,
      faster shopping, faster cleaning, faster schooling, faster bills,
      faster money. Wait a minute! Where'd my life go? It was filled up
      with faster everything. We tend to forget that the reason we want
      faster everything is so we can have more time. Instead, we fill our
      extra free time with more "faster everything." We end up doing more
      in a day, but still no free time. How can that be? Duh!
      So, in my life I'm purposely trying to slow down. I still use
      faster everything, just not so much of it all in the same day.
      Sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes I have no choice, "Stuff
      happens!" as they say. I run around trying to deal with faster
      everything all day until I can't anymore. Other times it actually
      works, I slow down and I have a few moments of "nothing to do." All
      of a sudden the entire world slows down, almost stops. I'm here,
      right now. I can hear birds outside. The wind blows. I can feel my
      own heartbeat. The cat curls up next to me so I sit and pet him. For
      several minutes that is all I do. Hmmm, so that's where my life went.
      Imagine that, there IS a world beyond my own plans. Cool! Hey,...
      this cat purrs when you pet him! That's neat. After a few moments,
      the phone rings, someone comes to the door, the cat wants to be fed,
      several tasks await me, seems like everything usually happens at
      once. OOPS, there goes that other world again. Back to the grind.
      Very few of us can afford to "just sit" for very long. It's that
      all-important buck that everybody wants from you that keep you so
      busy. It is also your own need for the buck, pay the bills, buy the
      food, maintain a house or apartment, maintain a vehicle, etc. Let's
      not forget going-out money, new clothes, movies, pizza, knick-knacks,
      presents, pets, etc. Why do we work so hard for the almighty buck?
      So that someday, we may be able to "just sit" for a while and not
      starve while we are doing it. For some people, "just sit" actually
      means leisure activities; travel, golf, hobbies, whatever. It's the
      same idea, whether you "just sit" in the living room or on the golf
      course or halfway up a mountain. That's why we want the buck so much,
      that's why we are so busy all the time, so that we can have
      everything we need to "just sit."
      How does this relate to our topics of time and reality? Think of it
      this way, reality is what you make it. Time moves fast or slow,
      depending on how you use it. None of us know how much time we have
      left in life. None of us have any for-sure answers about life. None
      of us know the "why" in life. So, are time and reality really real?
      Who cares? We don't have time for that! :-)
      Think of it this way, if you want to realize some of your life
      while you are working on "just sit", then take some time to do it
      now. There really is another world that takes place while we all run
      around it. I know, I've seen it!
      Sorry about the digression, lets get back to the main idea.
      Okay, so what is time? Is time just the passing of sections of
      itself? Where did the concept of time come from? Did it originate
      from the natural cycles that exist in the visible universe? Most
      likely, it did. The ancient races of the world left many relics
      behind that relate to the natural cycles. That's where sundials first
      came from. What about today's clocks, with hours, minutes and
      seconds? What about time zones? So many of us take time for granted
      as a natural part of life. We tend to forget that it is really
      something that we invented. Time, as we know it, did not exist until
      we invented it. Now it runs our entire lives.
      Try this, take all the clocks in your house and hide them
      somewhere. Wait a while. What time is it? You can guess all you want
      to and it will never really matter. "Its afternoon." Well, what time
      in the afternoon is it? "It's late afternoon." You can see my point.
      What we think of as time "6:30 PM" only exists if we have a clock to
      look at. Otherwise we only have the natural cycles of the universe to
      fall back on. "It's daytime." or "It's springtime." Does time
      actually exist? That depends on how you look at it. Take a few
      minutes and think about it. :-)
      There's the old saying about how the past and future don't really
      exist. As soon as the future gets here, it becomes the past. The only
      thing that really exists is the present. You can plan for the future,
      you can think about the past, but the present is the only one that
      really exists. Even our calendars are just an attempt at dividing up
      the natural cycles into smaller pieces. That way, we think we have
      some control over things, and we do, to an extent. However, we should
      always remember that calendars and clocks are just our imagination,
      true time only exists in our minds and in the natural cycles of this
      Did you know that the natural life span of all moving creatures on
      the planet is approximately 800 million heartbeats? This is why some
      creatures like insects and some smaller rodents only live for a few
      days or months. It is also the reason why larger or slower creatures
      live for 100 years. Both types still have approximately 800 million
      heartbeats, but their hearts beat at different rates. The perception
      of time passing is different for different creatures as well. A fly
      has ten times the reaction speed of a human. If a fly were watching a
      24 frame per second movie, it would seem slowed down visually. The
      movie would happen in stop-frame style, flickering slowly like an old
      silent film. Flies, and many insects, have a "speeded-up" sense of
      time. This is why they can fly through a splash of water, dodging
      every drop and come through it completely dry. They can fly through
      the spokes of a spinning wheel without getting hit. To them, these
      small fast moving events are actually large, slow-moving objects. It
      would be like us marveling at the fact that we can move through a
      revolving door. A revolving door moves slowly for us, it spins
      rapidly, almost a blur for an elephant, it is almost standing still
      for a fly. Time and perception go more by the speed of your heart
      than it does the passing days of the earth.
      Some cold-blooded creatures, like turtles, have varying states of
      perception. When a turtle is warmed in the sun, its perception of the
      passing moments heightens. It can see and is aware of faster moving
      creatures, like rodents and insects. When the turtle cools off, in
      the evening or in cold water, it's perception of time slows down. Its
      visual awareness actually slows down as well. Faster moving creatures
      start to blur and even vanish completely, the turtle is no longer
      aware that these creatures are moving around it. Its vision is slowed
      down along with its bodily responses. Creatures move by the turtle
      faster than its senses can pick them up. You know those movies where
      the superhero moves so fast that the criminals can't see him? This is
      an ordinary night for turtles. Time and perception of reality are
      different for different creatures. For some creatures it even varies
      for different parts of the day. So, is time real? Well...
      Okay, let's look at reality. What is reality? What is "real?" How
      can you tell if things are real or not. Let's look at some commonly
      accepted concepts.
      The Stars
      Are the stars real? Well, kind of, but not in the way you might
      think. You look up into the night sky and see stars twinkling. You
      might think it's nice that the stars are there. Well, they WERE there
      anyway. What do I mean by that? They're there, you can look right at
      them. They COULD still be there, but they might not be. This is a
      natural part of our reality. Huh?
      Stars are light years away. That means that the starlight hitting
      your eyes right now came off from the stars years ago. That's right,
      that last star you just saw might have actually been shedding that
      light hundreds or thousands of years ago. The light is just now
      reaching your eyes. For all you know, that same star may not even be
      there anymore. It may have blown up yesterday and we wouldn't know it
      for hundreds of years. We're still seeing the light that came from it
      years ago.
      The nearest star is 4.3 light years away (I think.) If the entire
      universe, except our solar system, were sucked up all at once, we
      wouldn't even know it for 4.3 years. Then we would experience the
      last thing to take effect, first. Our record of what had happened
      would blast past us and display itself to us in reverse. The area
      that was sucked up 4.3 years ago would be displayed first. Then the
      stuff that happened a hundred years ago, then the stuff that happened
      a thousand years ago, etc. The whole catastrophe would happen in
      reverse, to our eyes. Think about that.
      Here's another strange concept, it works the same way from "over
      there." Imagine if some alien were using a high-powered optical
      device to look at the earth. If the aliens were on a planet that
      circles a star one thousand light years away, they would be seeing
      what took place on the earth one thousand years ago. A thousand years
      ago! This is just one example of how the reality we see is not the
      "real" reality.
      Okay, here's another idea. Does it work this way in a much smaller
      scale right here on Earth? Do events around us actually happen a few
      moments before we realize it? It still takes the light so many
      nanoseconds to reach your eyes. It takes a few more moments for the
      signal to travel up the optic nerve from your eyes. It takes a few
      moments for your brain to decipher the signal that is coming in.
      Let's see a few nanoseconds plus a few moments plus a few more
      moments. Seems like events that take place right here in our lives
      actually happen a few moments before we realize they do. Just one
      example of how reality isn't always what it seems to be. Did I
      already say that? :-)
      Then there's the old "colors" issue. No, I'm not talking about
      anything racial. It goes like this, your orange could be my green.
      What does that mean? When you look at a sunset, how do you know that
      I see the same colors as you? Just because we both know them as
      orange, red and yellow. Hey, that's what I've always been told that
      they were. When I see orange, I know it's orange because everyone
      else has always pointed at it and said "That's orange." Well, how do
      THEY know it's orange? That's what they've always been told. For all
      we know, my orange could be your green. If you saw the same sunset
      through someone else's eyes, it may be all greens and purples. None
      of us will ever know for sure. If you think we all see the same
      colors, you need to talk to a color-blind person about it. Just one
      more example of... well, you know. Things aren't always what they
      Now think of how sensory oriented our reality is. You know
      something exists and is real because you can see it. What about blind
      people? Someone who was born blind does not see a sunset the same way
      we do. A deaf person does not hear the wind blow the same way. A
      paralyzed person does not feel the surface of anything the same way.
      We use our senses to determine our reality, yet our senses can leave
      us or be fooled easily. Have you ever touched something so cold that
      it burnt your skin? Have you ever seen something so hot that it
      melted? Have you ever been hit with a light so bright that you
      couldn't see? Have you ever been injured so badly that it didn't hurt
      (at first?) Have you ever heard a sound so loud that you couldn't
      hear anything? Have you ever dreamed that you woke up? Have you ever
      had that feeling that this had happened before, but you know it
      hasn't? Have you ever received one of those cards that you're already
      approved for? :-) Again, things are not what they seem.
      What about our American way of life, this is real, right? Ask an
      aboriginal tribe in Australia what their normal day is like. Ask an
      Eskimo above the Arctic Circle in the dead of winter, what time it
      is. Do you think he'll care? Ask the Anasazi tribes about God. Oh,
      that's right, you can't. The entire race vanished mysteriously. Ask
      anyone about how the pyramids were built. Never mind, no one really
      knows. Ask anyone what really happens when you die. Hey, there's only
      one irreversible way to prove it. Might as well wait.
      Our beliefs are real, right, which ones? We all have different
      beliefs from the same idea. We all have different concepts and
      Bibles, and places of faith, and ways of worship, all from the same
      creation. What about the tribe that was building and worshipping
      wooden models of airplanes because they saw them flying overhead?
      What about crying statues? What about the practice of voodoo and dark
      magic? What about holding cows as sacred, don't tell McDonalds. What
      about snake handling? What about performing sacrifices? What about
      monks meditating at 15,000 feet up in the mountains? Hordes of people
      waiting for the aliens to come and get them? Some people don't know
      what a church is. Some people believe there are many gods. Some
      people believe there is no god. Time and reality have different
      definitions for different people.

      Let's recap a little bit. What is reality? Is reality "real?"
      Well, we definitely know what time it is, unless someone hides all
      the clocks.
      The stars are kind of real, if they are still there. I'll let you
      know in 4.3 years.
      Well, outer space is real, right? Except that it appears to happen
      in reverse of the original. Huh?
      Okay, things that happen right here in our lives are real. Did I
      just say that a couple of nanoseconds ago?
      What we see in front of us is real, right? Except that the colors
      may be all screwed up and we just don't realize it. Just smile and
      What we can see and hear and feel is real, right? Ask a blind
      person what color those flowers are. Ask a paralyzed person what
      their new clothes feel like. Ask a deaf person what the wind sounds
      like. These are not cruel questions. They will use other senses to
      describe it to you. It will only partially be what you expected,
      because their concept of reality is different. Actually, everyone's
      concept of reality is different. Mine sure is!
      Surely God and the American way of life are real, right? Sure they
      are! But it's different for each one of us. And it's only real in
      this country. Each of us has our own reality that we exist in. They
      can and do overlap in small ways. And we do share many beliefs,
      events and actions as we live. However, each of us carries our own
      reality inside of us. Each of us is a "self-contained" reality going
      through life.
      So, is reality real? Whose reality? Your reality, or my reality?
      Mine is definitely real!
      (I think.) :)

      Ted Nicholas
      Email: nicholas@...
    • Jesse
      Reality is a fleeting illusion. J. F. Gump
      Message 2 of 2 , Nov 30, 2002
        "Reality is a fleeting illusion."

        J. F. Gump
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