How Our Will Is Not So Free – Part I

For any of you who are foolish enough to read my blog you are used to a lot of rambling.  I can’t promise this will be too different, but I would like to be a little formal and have an actual thesis for this post.  I have posted my thoughts about free will in respect to religion, but even if one is not religious the idea

From http://www.brandonragle.com

that we have free will is extremely pervasive and I think it is ultimately a not necessarily helpful concept to believe in.  The choices that we think people have are an illusion and we tend to instead judge others because people do not make choices that we would make.  It prevents us from really helping those who are violent, disturbed, hurting, depressed, etc.  It has us believe that there are people who are inherently evil allowing us to dehumanize them and cast them aside, when instead they might simply have brain abnormalities, be traumatized, influenced by people as messed up as they are, or simply lost and confused in a world that is beyond them and behave desperately.  I think it also acts to separate us from nature and is a great source of human conceit.  Free will is not something we ascribe to plants or animals and thus also gives us the illusion that we lie in a place above all else.  Whether you believe that the supernatural has imparted us this blessing of greatness or you think that evolution is a pyramid in which humans rest on top, both these notions are ultimately dangerous because they allow us to justify great atrocities against nature as we continue to satisfy our own self-importance.

In the first 8 months of watching my son grow it is clear that free will is not something he was born with.  He started out simply crying when he was hurting, uncomfortable or hungry, and sleeping when he was sleepy.  Not a lot of free will going on there.  As I watch him change, I see him simply become aware of more things.  When he first could see our cats, not surprisingly he was curious and wanted to touch them.  Now that he’s been outside he asks to go outside (well not in words).  Now that he realizes the comfort of being held he asks to be held.  He also mimics.  He sees us eating something and he wants to eat it.  He sees us using a remote, our phones, computers, and he desperately wants to use those too (or rather put them in his mouth).

Before I formally begin my argument for the absence of free will I want to put an excellent quote from an article I read some time ago from the New Yorker which has had a large influence on my thoughts in trying to understand why we are the way we are and where this sense of self comes from that I blogged about some time ago.

I believe we inherit a great river of knowledge, a flow of patterns coming from many sources. The information that comes from deep in the evolutionary past we call genetics. The information passed along from hundreds of years ago we call culture. The information passed along from decades ago we call family, and the information offered months ago we call education. But it is all information that flows through us. The brain is adapted to the river of knowledge and exists only as a creature in that river. Our thoughts are profoundly molded by this long historic flow, and none of us exists, self-made, in isolation from it.”

From http://www.eugenecascadescoast.org

The reason I want you to keep this in mind, because not only does it support the argument I am going to make (doesn’t of course make the statement true), but most importantly I want to reveal to you that just because I don’t think we have free will, doesn’t mean that I don’t find life absolutely amazing.  The idea expressed in this passage speaks to me in a way I cannot fully express, but I find this idea beautiful.  It tells me that we are product of processes that function over many different scales of time.  From what we learn each day, to what nature has molded us into over millions of years.  We can extend even further and look at the billions of years of evolution which has produced us , and we can go back further to old stars dying and being the seeds for our own sun and solar system which allowed one fortunate planet to even allow life to evolve.  So the fact I may not be quite as in control of the process is hardly depressing.  In fact it removes a lot of the pressure if anything.  I can simply marvel at all that has taken place for me to sit here and write these thoughts out today back to the beginning of time.  It is humbling, inspiring, and magnificent.

I shall now let you pause a bit before going on to the next blog post, because going back to the beginning of time is something that requires some deep reflection. 🙂

It’s the End of the World as We Know It and I Feel Fine

There are some topics which completely perplex me, and this is certainly one of them. It seems strange to me for many reasons why people subscribe to the

From http://www.hydramag.com

possibility of the world ending in a sudden almighty purge.  This post has been a long time coming and I am sure I will not blow many people’s minds with anything I say here, but I will try to address the topic a more serious tone rather than the rant I feel like doing.

This post was prompted by an article my colleague quite humorously ranted about on Facebook about the blood moon being an indication of the end of the world. I quote: “People, it’s a freaking rock, orbiting a slightly wetter rock, orbiting a hot mess called the Sun! Shadows happen!” This end of the world prediction is just one in another line of many that have been made in human history. This Wikipedia listing gives a pretty good run down of whom and when end of the world predictions were made and you can see that there are around 150 listed in addition to ones that are supposed to still happen.  I am also sure there have been many more in human history that have not been documented. Most rational people would wonder why anyone would still buy into any more predictions about the end of the world when none of them have come true before. You know the whole “fool me once shame on you, fool me 150 times…” But it’s not enough to say well it’s obvious that these people with apocalyptic imaginations are wrong, the fact that they keep popping up should tell us that there is something in our psychology that causes some people to subscribe to such scenarios.

I read an interesting article in a great journal called Daedalus called Apocalypse and The End of Time by Richard Fenn who tried to analyze a lot of the commonalities between end of the world predictions and what societal influences seem to make them most likely. These are some of the things he came up with:

  • Many apocalyptic predictions come from people who feel society is in moral decay. This can arise from greater secularism in society, or because one culture feels that they are being influenced by an outside culture. Both of these represent cultural shifts in which an old way is being replaced by a new way.
  • Decreased economic conditions and oppression (or perceived oppression as is often the case by more religious zealots).
  • A fear of change in general. The young , people who think for themselves, and in more patriarchal societies, women all can represent a change to a current way of life.

Of course many of these things are interrelated and I think we can easily see how many of these things boil down simply to change and our inability to deal with an increasingly complex world. Thus it is not completely surprising to me that those who are more prone to believing in a fixed set of rules that govern the universe which are immutable and prescribed by the supernatural are also more likely to subscribe to end of the world predictions. As a scientist, to me change seems natural and inevitable and though some change is less pleasant than others I hope that the world will be propelled forward more than it is pulled backward.

For those who know me, you also know how fascinated I am with the subject of time, and, to me, time is also the study of change. Thus it comes as no surprise that Fenn argues that the apocalyptic imagination is an attempt to move away from the passage of time. With this timelessness we also lose change. We also lose individuality. Many of the apocalyptic prophecies involve the destruction of corrupting influences and the preservation of those who fit a prescribed moral code, merging with the one true God. Thus this desire for end times also perhaps plays to our psychological desire to remove complexity from the world to some harmonious state of peace in which nothing is changing and everyone is like everybody else.

And I can understand this desire.

There are plenty of times in which I wish I could freeze a moment and time and make it last longer. There are times in which I wish the world wasn’t so difficult, that there was no pain and suffering, and that I didn’t have to argue and fight.  This of course is fantasy. And fantasy has its place and I believe we need it from time to time to stay sane. Adhering to a fantasy for a prolonged length of time, however, is insanity. More importantly we should not forget that there is real beauty in change. The fact that I am an example of change, from a fertilized cell to a grown 40 year old man, that I have strived to learn and grow wiser and more moral with time, indicates that change can be a good thing. Change is inevitable, so let’s not fight change, let’s keep fighting to make things better. We still have a long way to go.

What is not life?

A charming blogger I follow who is full of sharp wit, emotional depth, and genuine kindness recently posted a poem called What is Life?  Her answers to that question follow and are an enjoyable read.  Someone in the comments of that post asked the question, “What then is NOT life?” and that question had me thinking.  So I thought in response to her poem, I would write a quick one of my own, which is not nearly as clever or humorous, but hopefully at least makes you ponder the question that I did. 🙂

What is not life?

It is not straight lines,

From http://www.smscs.com

It is not absolute,

It is not nothing,

It is not one truth.

It is not an ideal gas,

It is not constant,

It is not always visible, heard or felt,

It is not just about you

It is not probable,

It is not in equilibrium,

It is not predictable,

It is not perfect.

It is not disconnected,

It is not small,

It is not for the faint of heart,

(And…in the vast depths of time of this universe),

It is not long.

Love and the Future

Lately and perhaps not surprisingly with a newborn in my arms I have been pondering love again.  This, in addition with a psychology class I sat in on last semester about the subject, and some other articles I read recently, has led me to feel like exploring my thoughts a little.  Not too long ago I was conversing with a fellow blogger who posted some writings from a Buddhist about love that said something to the order of “true love can only exist in the present”.  As I paused for thought, I appreciated the truth of those words in an ideal sense, but it struck me as not how love seems to

From www.mindbodygreen.com
From http://www.mindbodygreen.com

work.

When I’ve fallen in love before, and others that I’ve talked to share similar experiences, thoughts of the future seem to go with it.  I often described it as painting pictures in your mind.  You fall in love, you start to see happy times, future celebrations, children, growing old together.  These pictures seem extremely vivid.  Like memories you’ve built on events yet to happen.  From a biological sense this seems to make sense because that is how love should work.  Love builds attachments, and attachments in this world give you strength.  If love did not make us feel this way it seems like we would lose an important part of what love is really for; to give us companionship and togetherness, and increase our chances of survival in a world filled with uncertainty.  Feelings of security and visions of the future seem so tangible to me, I wonder if it is true to others who have been in love.  Nevertheless, if you could truly stay focused on the present, maybe this could take away much of the pain when a relationship ends.  And I think sometimes this is why a relationship ends.  You focus on the future that you take the other for granted in the present.   And the loss of a relationship leaves you with vivid visions of events that will now no longer take place.  Those events are in your memory and I’ve always felt that recovery from a relationship literally requires erasing those memories.

As I look at my son in my arms, I am filled up with love.  Of course this also makes sense from a biological standpoint.  I think the love of a parent in animals is somewhat proportional to how helpless they are when they are born.  Human children are completely helpless such that any indifference on our part would lead to less care and more infant mortality.  Some creatures have the ability to “hit the ground running” parents are protective to a certain degree, but especially if you are born prey, the kid has to kind of take care of himself a bit too and learn to run as fast as possible.  Love comes in many forms and certainly the love for one’s child is different than romantic love, but  I started to ask myself, what is that I love about my son?  If asked the same question about my wife I could point to a large list of qualities in her, I could recount numerous wonderful memories and happy moments. There are of course physical attributes too as a basis for attraction. The love has a clear basis.  No quality is perhaps unique in her, but all together she certainly is unique.  The fact that I love her is not surprising, and the fact that there aren’t others out there who I might love or have loved her is not surprising either.  But as I look at my son I wonder what is it based on other than a biological drive to love my child.  I find him beautiful of course.  Every parent finds their child beautiful.  Once again if we didn’t, we might be less likely to want to take care of them.  But he has no personality to speak of.  He hasn’t been alive more than a month yet and we have few memories together at all.  We have nothing in common except some DNA.  We can’t really do a whole lot together.  It is a purely one sided relationship.  We give and he takes.  If this were anybody else, friends would say,” you need to get out of that relationship.” Lol

I then read a story about someone having twins prematurely and losing one of them and of course I naturally thought about how I would feel if

My wife and our son
My wife and our son

my son were to die.  Of course it would be grievously painful, but I thought to myself what would I be grieving about?  If I lost my wife, the pain of numerous past memories and a deep sense of loss over qualities she possessed that I would no longer be privilege to would flood my mind for many years to come, in addition to the loss of the future I dreamed of us having together.  It seems that if I did lose my son the majority of my grief would be grieving the loss of his future.  For as someone in love with his child I see a future filled with vacations, camping trips, teaching him science, helping him with homework, going to graduations, seeing him grow and hit milestones in his life as we all do.

The future is truly uncertain and so loving only in the present seems wise in some respect, but I’m not sure it’s possible.  I think the best we can do is try not to build those hopes and dreams so solidly that we allow them take different shapes.  Nevertheless a part of me feels like the love I have right now for my child seems less solid somehow because it seems largely based on a feeling completely intangible and dreams of the future.  However, I know that as he grows and I spend more time with him it will simply gets stronger and I know that as we do build more memories and I do get to know him as a person that I will be more and more in love with him.  Given how much I love him already the thought of that fills me with nothing but pleasure.  That is at least one vision of the future that I can hold on to without fear.

For my parents

Dear Mom and Dad,

Though you are divorced now, you are still my mom and dad and thus I address you together as the parents who raised me.  Of course with my own child on the way my mind has drifted many times to the type of parent I will be.  There are plenty of people who have advice for you when you tell them you are expecting a baby.  A lot of it is good advice, some of it seems strange.  Some advice I imagine might make more sense once the child is an entity outside the womb.  Ultimately you can never really know exactly how good any set of parents are without seeing them in action, and there are few parents that I have seen  as intimately as I have seen my own.  As I look back on who I was and who I am today, I am proud.  I think I was and still am a good person.  I hope that doesn’t sound egocentric to say, but I also know that I am by no means perfect.  I have made mistakes and still do, but I have learned well from them.   I have strength, compassion, love, and try to be humble (even if this doesn’t sound very humble right now).  It would be foolish to think that any of my qualities that I am most proud of are simply some genetic trait, even though I know that those things do help shape you.  Ultimately I know that it is my upbringing that has had the largest impact on who I am today.  I then ask myself, what is it that you did that made me into someone that I am proud of today, and that for the most part, have always made me feel free to be who I am?  What are the lessons that I must make sure to teach my son so that at the very least he can become the man I am, even though I hope that he will be even more than I can dream.  I am not sure I know the answer to this, because I think a lot of the answer is just working hard to be the person that I want my son to be.  So instead I am writing this letter so I can let you know what things you gave me that I am so thankful for and that I hope my son will also be thankful for.

I first wanted to thank you for the things you both gave me, which was extreme amount of dedication to providing me with a life you could not have.  You wanted better for me, and you worked so hard to get it.  I am probably not even remotely aware of all the things that you denied yourself so that you could give me something that I wanted.  You cut corners everywhere to save money for your brothers and sisters, your parents, and for your children.  You gave me my undergraduate education, you helped me even afterwards when I had unexpected large expenses.  Your kids always came first in some way or another and I am so grateful for that.  You always showed a tremendous amount of confidence in me.  You’ve trusted me.  You have never tried to interfere and make decisions for me and have let me make my own decisions. And if after I made mistakes you’ve always been there though to help pick me up.  Even now with a child on the way, a situation in which many parents become over involved you place so much confidence in me and it is a source of strength. You’ve also taught me great lessons in tolerance.  Through mutual respect of each other’s cultures and other ethnicities you have made me extremely respectful of people’s differences.  More importantly though you showed me that despite the color of skin or particular beliefs there is nothing to fear.  We all just want good company, a good meal, and to learn from one another.  You’ve taught me the value of togetherness.

I also wanted to thank you for valuing education.  Even though both of you did not have a lot of education post high school, you recognized its importance.  More importantly you taught me to love learning.  It would have been very easy to work your jobs knowing nothing more about the world than you already did, but you always enjoyed reading and learning more or watching documentaries, nature shows, playing scrabble, boggle, doing puzzles etc.  You both enjoyed learning more about the world and challenging your minds, and made me feel like it was natural to do so.  This in turn made me value all people a lot more.  Not many in this world have a Ph.D. and it is easy for the educated to turn up their noses at those who aren’t as educated, but you taught me the value of every job in this world and that having a job that doesn’t require much education doesn’t mean that you have to stop learning.  And you exposed me to so many good people from the places you worked and made me appreciate the goodness in people from all walks of life. You always saw the positive in what you did.  You always wanted to do your jobs well even if there was some other job you would have rather had in life.

There were also things unique to each of you that have meant so much to me and so Dad I will start with you.  There are two things that you always said to me that are so important.  “I just want you to be happy”.  It’s simple but so important.  These weren’t just words to you either, because you made them the truth by how you acted.  And I just want you to know that I do have happiness and so if my happiness is the thing you wanted the most for me, then you can say that you have successfully completed that mission.  Also, although I have just mentioned education there is one line that sticks out in my mind, “Don’t get grades for us.  Get good grades for yourself.”  You always reinforced this selfless notion and as a result, ironically, I wanted to make you guys proud of my success in school all the more.  But you made me recognize that letting yourself down is ultimately harder to overcome than letting down others.

I have already mentioned about your jobs, but I just wanted to make a specific mention about your job Dad as a machinist.  I can’t even count all the times you would come home and show Joni and I the new cuts on your fingers from shards of metal that would fly out at you while machining.  You worked your body hard and bled for us to have a better life.  I will always be thankful for that.  I have also already mention your appreciation for other cultures, but the stories of your travels always gave me a bigger sense of the world, and has made me feel like it is natural to go where the world takes you to try and make a better life for yourself.  You came a long way to make a life in Canada from India.  That journey is what made me, and that is wonderful story.  I also appreciate how you always wanted to take us to different ethnic restaurants because you have given me my love for good food.  But really what I value most about that is how you were always interested in experiencing the food of other cultures the way they experienced it, because you recognized that all of it is part of the cultural experience.  And your interest in learning about other cultures not only developed my interest, but seeing how happy you made people when they saw your genuine interest in who they are, made me realize that the world always gives back when you truly care about it.

Finally, the most important thing you gave me was the fact that you were affectionate and emotional.  A lot of fathers are not.  I have many memories of lying in bed with a cold or flu and you sitting at my bedside before going to work, putting your hand on my forehead and cheek and looking at me saying how much you wished your touch could take my sickness and give it to yourself.  That was so wonderful for me.  You also gave me many hugs and I remember many times lying on the couch together watching hockey games or movies together.  I don’t know if this is a lesson you intended on teaching me, but from you I learned tht there is nothing wrong with men showing love through affection regardless of gender.  Touches from men are often seen as sexual in our society and that’s simply not true.  Your feeling free to show your affection is also what let me know that you had a big heart.  Even though you didn’t share deep emotional feelings with me growing up, I knew you felt things intensely and could not help but show those emotions outwardly.  I am emotional too, and I am very proud of that aspect of myself.  So many men are distant towards their sons emotionally and affectionately.  You were never that way and I am a better man for it.

As I start writing the part of this letter to you, Mom, I find myself at a loss of words.  It’s not easy because when I think of you, what you have given me is harder to breakdown.  To say you weren’t also affectionate would be untrue, so I don’t want to minimize your outward displays of love but unlike Dad who I attribute what is outward and obvious about me, you are my inside.  You are my perseverance; you are my humility, and my compassion, you are the glue that holds me together when life throws things at you in an attempt to make you fall apart.  You were a safe harbor in a storm and a rock who kept shape against all the elements.  You were thoughtful, reflective, protective but without ever lying to me.  You were both honest and kind.  Although I don’t believe in the divinity of Christ, I admire who he was as a person, and I know of no one in this world who is more Christ-like than you.   All those things you gave me were not just words, but they were things you lived and still do today.  Even if we don’t share the same faith, you taught the value of faith.  Having faith that everything is going to be alright is because of you.  All of us fight and struggle, but you conquer, and it makes me always believe that I can conquer as well when I need to.   And all these amazing things about you and you still had all the boundless energy that mothers always seem to have.  For all the cleaning, laundry, sewing, cooking, helping with school projects, doing crafts, I mean the list goes on and on.  All this on top of going to job all day that wasn’t particularly stimulating.  You showed me that love is as much a function of space as it is of time.  When it comes to being a parent, I don’t know if I can compare to you.  I don’t know if I can be as amazing as you were and I’m honestly a bit scared, ut everything will work out.  I have faith.

I hope you will forgive me for posting this letter to you both publicly.  I do it in part to let people know where I come from.  I do it also to remember where I come from so that I might better see where I am headed next.  Most importantly I do it because I think you both were wonderful parents and that maybe there is nothing really magical about it all, it’s just hard work.  I wouldn’t trade you for anything in the world.  Nobody is perfect and you weren’t always perfect and that’s okay.  I don’t know if your jobs made you feel ordinary, but you will never be ordinary to me.  You both game me so much love and never asked anything in return.  The best way I know how to repay you is to give my child all the good things that you gave me.  I know you both live far away and won’t have the chance to spend as much time with your grandson as some other grandparents, but I promise you that my child will know you because of what you’ve given me.  I hope that I make you as proud of me as a parent as you’ve been proud of me thus far.  I love you both very much.

Vigilance

Well I have been absent from the blogosphere for a while thanks to a busy semester, but I guess that just means I have more to say!   The topic I wanted to write about today is sort of a good one to start back blogging about.

It seems, although somewhat subconsciously, that I have been trying to compile a list of what I think are the most important human virtues.  While I think most people could rattle off a list of such qualities, I’ve been trying to pare down the list to the essentials.  It occurred to me that many qualities are somewhat related.  I’ve written about the importance of compassion.  In it I think are many other qualities like empathy, generosity, kindness, etc.   Humility is another one that I think is really important and have blogged about before.  So today I want to talk about what I think is a 3rd very important virtue and that vigilance.  To be clear and add some definition, vigilance, to me, is also the quality of determination and more importantly perseverance.

One of my favorite quotes from a person of history is this quote by Gandhi, “Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it.”.  At first such a quote might

From http://www.voanews.com

seem kind of depressing, but I do not think this is what Gandhi was saying, and I think that this quote speaks to the importance of vigilance in life.  Life is full of mundane tasks that must be done, not all of them are joyful, nor are they painful, they are just chores that need to be done, often daily; things like brushing your teeth, washing dishes, taking out the garbage, etc.  And it’s not to say that these things might not be joyful for some people too.  There is something nice about the feeling of clean teeth, or a clean kitchen, but even if there isn’t, it is important that these things be done.  Even if you are rich enough to have someone who does a lot of chores, you are likely to still have tasks that need to be done that are sort of mindless.  These tasks are often, most of the things we do in a given day.  So I think Gandhi recognized this aspect of our lives, but also recognized the importance of those actions as being valuable over time, even if they have little immediate impact.  Children for instance need consistency over time as they themselves experience so many new things, a parent who is consistent in their actions and being there for their child is important.  Relationships require trust that demands a certain constancy of character in others that you forge relationships with. Good health and long life requires a lifetime of good choices about hygiene, nutrition, and exercise.  I have often told people that getting a Ph.D. is not as much about how smart you are, but your ability to persevere through a lot of work, hoops, and bureaucracy (I don’t necessarily mean this disparagingly, because for me it was worth, for others I know it was not).  I think it is true that sometimes we even seek this constancy in things that we don’t like.  The saying “Sometimes the enemy you know, is better than the enemy you don’t”, speaks to situations where people are willing to put up with something or somebody that is unpleasant simply because they have become used to it and at least know how to deal with it.

I think it is easy for vigilance to get caught up in the idea of routine, and maybe it sometimes is, but even that is not necessarily a bad thing.  Those with autism depend on routine as a way of making sense of their world, and I don’t think we are all that different.  Most of us need

From http://www.sodahead.com

some sense of routine, because our lives are always in conflict between change which brings uncertainty and those things that we can count on which makes us feel safe.  Routine can sometimes be very helpful when facing adverse moments in life.  Having something to focus on, having something that you feel you need to do, however mundane the task, might be can help us from falling into depression or becoming apathetic.   I can’t speak for all people, but I have observed this being helpful for others and certainly for me when I was going through adversity.

Recently I was in New Orleans for a conference and the keynote speaker for the conference was talking about how her spirituality has helped her and that she feels like God works through her because when she looks at the things she has done, she doesn’t know how she has been able to do it.  She feels like she herself is not capable.  I think it is easy to understand why many people feel that way.  I think for most things we do, we are used to seeing the immediate result of a particular action.  But the quality of being vigilant is one that builds a wisdom and experience over time.  I liken it to a river that erodes to make a canyon.  If you could talk to the river at any one moment in its life it would be unaware of how much it is doing.  Miniscule fragments get washed away every day however.  I likened the speaker’s statement to asking this river a couple hundred thousand years later to look around and see what it has made.  I think the river would be surprised at the deep canyon it has made, since each day it only perceives a little less rock underneath and at its side.  The weathering of rock by the river is a story of vigilance and I think that we can easily fall into the trap of not realizing how great things are possible when we remain vigilant over long periods of time.

I think it’s important to remember that cause and effect occur over various timescales.  Rewards of our labors and actions may often take years to come to fruition.  So, although our actions may seem to be of no importance in the short term, over the long term the benefits can be remarkable.  Keeping this in mind helps me find more value in the mundane, and gives me the courage to push through when life seems difficult.    But like all things in life there is still a balance to be found, so don’t be afraid to make adjustments when life teaches you another lesson.  The extreme consequence of vigilance may be stubbornness and we must also be vigilant about not developing too many bad habits.  😉

Peace all!

Where does time go?

The truth is that a couple of years ago I started a blog about “Time” as I had just finished teaching a course about the history of time, both in terms of measurement and our understanding.  I am going to be reposting some of those blogs here, and rework them a bit.  Some of you may have read this before.

A student asked me the question “where does time go”, perhaps in a drunken stupor, via text message, but a valid one nonetheless.  I sometimes have some of my most interesting thoughts while inebriated, the only problem is that I can’t remember what they are!  But I digress.

It is an interesting question though.  Time, is unlike space in that once a moment is gone, you can’t get it back.  And future moments cannot be grasped either.  All we have is now.  As I was thinking about how to answer the question, I went back to basics and said, well time and space are connected.  Time is a dimension, just as the first 3 dimensions are.  While we can navigate space in purposeful way (in that we can choose the direction in space we travel), we cannot navigate time in terms of choice.  One can argue though that all of us are navigating time to some extent, because each moment we explore our futures.  Perhaps the reason we can’t choose to navigate time in terms of direction is simply because we don’t know how yet.  Time travel seems like an extremely puzzling and complex prospect, but perhaps this is only because we are far from the answer.  Physics tell us that time is not a vector and does not imply any direction.  We only know of one direction so far.

So my first thought in answering that question, “where does time go?”, is to say, “well it’s somewhere else.”  In space if I put an object on a table and then asked you to close your eyes and moved it.  The object would no longer be there, and would be somewhere else.

Dick: “Hey where did the moment go?”

Jane: “Well it was there, now it is somewhere else”.

We could confuse ourselves even further by saying:

Dick: “This moment now is here, and soon it will be somewhere else”.

Jane:  “So in the future the moment will be somewhere else?

Dick: “That’s right”.

Jane: “And by somewhere else you mean the past?  So in the future the moment will occur, then it will be gone?”

Dick: “It’s that simple.”

Jane dies of an embolism.

The problem is of course that while it might be easy to say they are somewhere else, right now we don’t have a way of going to find them.   Both space and time have systems of measurement and with that system we can name a location for past events in time, or future events for that matter (although we wouldn’t be able to describe the future particularly well).  Despite knowing the location in time however, we cannot simply go there, unlike an object that has been moved which we can then find again.

Just like a lost object that you have searched for you have to accept at some point that the object is gone and no longer worry about it.  All your past moments are gone and we don’t know how to find them.  That doesn’t mean that past moments don’t have relevance to who you are today, but one has to be careful about dwelling in the past for too long.  Despite how strongly you may try to convince yourself, you are still in the present. 🙂 Maybe someday you will stumble upon a lost object, and maybe someday we will stumble upon the answer of how to find those lost moments.  For now I accept that every moment is irretrievable and thus try to make the most of them when I have them.