Trapped in Time / In der Zeit Gefangen / Preso no Tempo / Atrapado en el Tiempo

We are trapped in time. You are carried in it with no detours from one moment to the next, from today into tomorrow, from this year into next, from summer to winter, from birth to death. And apparently we are stuck at one spot in it: the present. Time has us pinned to the now.

Neither the past nor the future exists; there is only the now and here.

The experience of time as a flow is an illusion of some kind. The theory of relativity indicates that time is not a flow, but a dimension with plottable points, like in space. In fact, space and time are not two things interacting with each other, but one, which the physicists call space-time.

It is pretty widely accepted in modern science that, despite our experience of it, the past and future are as real as the present. Past, present and future exist all together simultaneously as the dimension of time.

Physicists call this ‘block time’, a phrase parallel to the philosophical term ‘eternity’. It refers to the idea that all time and space exist at once – space-time. In other words, it is likely that 2 p.m. Tuesday does still exist, you just can not get there from here.

Why we are stuck in the present, no one knows.

Einstein, who was quite bothered by this part of the riddle, suggested that we separate past, present and future in our minds to keep life orderly. If everything was happening to us at once, we couldn’t handle it. Humankind can not bear very much reality.

Quantum physicists’ mathematical calculations of the behavior of subatomic particles indicate that not only do distinctions between past, present and future not correspond to the way the physical World works, but distinctions between what did and did not happen, or what will and will not happen, are also questionable.

The ‘Many Worlds’ interpretation of quantum physics indicates that it is entirely possible that everything that can happen, happens, happened and will happen. We, for some unknown reason see only one happening at a time, out of an infinite number of happenings.

This is not science fiction. It is, however, so far outside your earthly experience that it is hard to see how ‘block time’ would ever become an everyday frame of mind. I do not say it is impossible. It is just very difficult to imagine.

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