What Is Really Going On With Time?




From Groundhog Days – Intercourse on Time

By Melina Costello & David Arthur Walters

September 18, 2003



Dear Madame Melina,

I trust this letter finds you well and profitably engaged in your metaphysical endeavors.

I was going through our Groundhog notes again yesterday. I came across this statement by the great Ouspensky:

“… it is possible to say that our usual conception of ‘dimensions of time’ are wrong. For instance, for us time can have different duration – five years, ten years, a hundred years – but it always has the same speed. But where are proofs of this? Why not suppose that time in certain limits (for instance in relation to human life) always has the same duration but DIFFERENT SPEED? One is not more arbitrary than the other, but with the admission of this possibility the question disappears…..”

You have already supposed, after perusing John McTaggart’s Unreality of Time, that McTaggart, despite his logic or even because of it, is muddle-headed. Now we may also suppose that Ouspensky is a muddle-headed man, and that the Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence itself is absurd.

But Ouspensky may have known better. He may have been a wily trickster or charlatan intentionally attempting to deceive us by making an impression that he knows more than he does, that he has insight into truths that remain a mystery to us, wherefore we should regard him as an authority, buy his book, sign up for the Work, or whatever.

On the other hand, it is we who are muddle-headed and in want of a better elucidation by the great master of enlightenment. Yet another possibility is that he is trying to get us to think for ourselves by positing impossibilities or by posing ridiculous insoluble riddles for us to solve.

Alright, then, he suggests that we suppose that time flows or endures at different speeds, as if time were a thing such as a stream of water flowing along something stationary, say, over the land. We ask, if time is flowing at different speeds, different speeds in relation to what? The land is may be the ruler but is not the timer. A thing moving in space moves in respect to time. A car speeds along at so many miles per hour. A man ages or changes over the years and we do not expect him to endure much longer than 100 years. We have an objective standard for duration upon which we all agree; for instance, we measure change by a certain quantity of units for which we have an atomic or astronomical reference. That is to say that a moving object does not move at different objective speeds for each observer of the motion, nor are the observers living at different speeds. Or are we monads without windows and without relations to one another, monads whose only internal movement is changing delusions? I think not.

Now, then, since a motion or change in space occurs in relation to time, is it safe to say that time also moves in respect to time, or hypertime? So does hypertime move in respect to hyper-hypertime? And so on ad infinitum? Does change change relative to change? I think not. I do not think that time is a thing that is moving in space, something that is rushing by each and every one of us like the wind. I post that the “flow of time” or the “stream of time” into which we cannot step into the same place twice, is a metaphorical conception, a myth about something that does not substantially exist; the connotation is adjectival rather than nominative.

What, then, is time? Whatever it is, it seems that the notion of time moving at different speeds, and the attempt to make a difference between duration and speed, is sheer nonsense; or that yours truly, for instance, is in need of further enlightenment.

However that may be, and given human ingenuity, surely there is some way to solve the riddle Ouspensky poses, if there is a solution. I was thinking that each person at death might not be reborn instantly, but another universe would start up with a big bang, and the soul of the deceased would be suspended from animation or in a timeless state until the history of the new universe caught up and he was born again into the usual world, say, on Groundhog Day.

I am no mathematician like Ouspensky was; however, if my scenario were true, I think there might be a number of universes approaching infinity in some sort of hyperspace. I don’t know if that would pose a spatial problem. As for the waiting souls, since they are non-dimensional, I imagine they could all fit onto the head of a pin.

And that is question within your domain, my dear metaphysician. Pray tell how many souls can fit on a head of a pin.

Your Faithful Groundhog



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