I write a post each year on January 1. Sometimes these are personal, but this year, I want to talk about time.
I don’t believe in time itself. What I mean by this is that time is a reference frame and a useful tool, but it isn’t a real thing beyond that. Beginnings and ends are all relative.
As far as ends go, there are countless ways for human beings to go extinct. We could blow ourselves up with nuclear bombs. Climate change could lead to the planet being uninhabitable for humans. A near-Earth supernova could cause a mass extinction event and end human life.
And then what will we be? What will all of our toil, our sorrow, our joy amount to? Nothing. But we always will have been. And maybe that’s something.
Why do people do such horrible things to each other? When will people stop fighting? When will the threat of terrorism no longer exist?
I see the laments every time a terrorist attack happens in a Western nation, and my own response is–why are these the questions we ask?
What follows isn’t criticism, it isn’t an argument, it’s just a reflection. It’s just another way to ask why.
(Would love to credit this properly.)
Me and Robert Ferguson out for a stroll.
I visited Edinburgh, Scotland last weekend. (Yes, just for the long weekend. Stop giving me that look. I don’t get much time off from work.)
I might also be going a little crazy.
I lived in Oxford, England for a spell. I’ve visited a few places in Europe—mostly old cities rich in history. I’ve stood in front of Titian paintings and been overwhelmed. I’ve walked through Mozart’s house and swore I could feel his energy lingering in the walls. I’ve seen ancient relics in museums. I’ve been inches away from The Rosetta Stone.
I have all this proof that humanity has existed for thousands of years. I know people are a blip on the radar of time, but when I try to think about all the individuals who have existed, all the things they’ve created, all the skirmishes that have been fought, it’s still too much to fathom.
Suppose there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. The odds, of course, are greatly in favor of this assumption.
Now suppose that there is a planet containing life that is close enough to be able to see the light being reflected off of Earth with whatever telescopic powers these lifeforms have available to them.
Suppose, even, that this planet is in the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest to the Milky Way, approximately 2.5 million light years away.
This means that the light that these intelligent creatures are viewing is old. Very old.
They are seeing light from an earth that is nothing but distant history to us – the first appearance of the genus Homo.
They are seeing history.
They are seeing Earth’s past.
They won’t see today’s light for another 2.5 million years.
Kind of makes you feel insignificant, doesn’t it?