Okay back to time and what it is. By the way, I did a great deal of research about the nature of time. It was all just mind-boggling to me. Even after that, I needed to verify my my understanding of what I had read and what I had written in this chapter that I wrote to Dan Falk, author of In Search of Time: Journeys Along a Curious Dimension. I would once again like to thank him for taking the time to review my chapter. Time, as a topic, is so mysterious and I was very happy to find out, in my research, that the concept I am proposing in Future Pull is very possible. I hope, as you read this, you will adopt a perspective of unlimited possibility.
Go get a coffee, sit down, relax and consider the nature of time. But perhaps you should set an alarm because when you start to rethink time, you’ll be heading off down a rabbit hole and you may forget to come out. And by the way, is forgetting a function of time passing? And is time different when you’re down the rabbit hole or in another dimension?
If you are starting to think that I’m being ridiculous and that surely science has the answers to these questions, think again. These are not just the meanderings of a mind that is woefully under-informed about classical mechanical theory or quantum theory; these are the questions that ‘real’ physicists are exploring. They are also arguing about the answers and certainly nowhere close to agreement.
Let me provide a simple, as simple as I can given the subject, overview of some of the key ideas that are relevant to the concept of Future Pull and the suggestion that you can create your future and flow into it.
If we don’t think too deeply about it, time seems simple enough. After all, it surrounds us, governs our lives and is the foundation of conscious human experience. It appears to be so integral to our experience that it seems to be internally controlled as though time begins with our first breath and ends with our last.
The metaphors we use for time reinforce the common view, at least the common Western view, that time flows in a straight line from the past, through the now, and on into the future. We refer to it as a ‘river’ or an ‘arrow’. We talk of ‘looking back’ at the past or ‘looking ahead’ to the future. Time appears to flow in one direction only. We view it as a limited commodity and speak of ‘wasting time’, ‘saving time’, ‘using time wisely’ and ‘managing time’. We say it crawls or flies by depending on whether we are having an enjoyable time or suffering through it. We can’t touch it, smell it or taste it but we think we can feel it. Or at least we think we can feel it passing and we see the wake it leaves as we age.
There are many variations on the ‘what is time’ theme. St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430) pondered time and came to believe that perhaps it is all just in our heads. If he was right, it’s a mass hallucination; a complex agreement with rules and, well, timelines. You may want to brush off St. Augustine’s conclusion as a ‘dark ages’ idea like ‘the world is flat’. Far from it. Some present day physicists also believe that time may be an illusion. Even one of the greatest thinkers of all time considered that perhaps time is illusory. Einstein thought that perhaps time is not ‘out there’ but ‘in here’; an internal perception or feeling that time is passing.
Another way of viewing time is as part of a space-time block in which past and future have equal status and that ‘now’ is just a label like ‘here’. That might mean that time is real but that its flow is an illusion. It may be hard to wrap your mind around that idea. After all, evidence of the passing of time is all around us. We see fossils embedded in rock that tell us that millions of years have passed since those creatures lived. Looking up at the stars at night, knowing how fast light travels and calculating how many light years away they are, we conclude that the light from them has been on course to us for millions of years. Astronomers’ best guess is that 14 billion years have passed since the birth of the Universe. So if time isn’t passing, what is it doing?
Einstein’s special theory of relativity opened the door to the space-time concept and the idea that time is actually a fourth dimension. You can go to YouTube to view animations of four dimensional objects but be warned, in this case seeing doesn’t necessarily mean understanding. Some physicists view space-time as evidence that past, present and future could all be here with us now, similar to the block universe idea.
A commonly held perspective is that the future is a mirage while the past is etched in stone. But is it? It appears that our memories are fragile and not particularly trustworthy. If that is the case, is the past any more sure than the future? Quantum mechanics tells us that the future is one of ‘potential’ and ‘possibility’. The ‘now’ may be all that is real or ‘for sure’. ‘Presentism’ suggests that both the past and the future can be considered part of the ‘now’. Our memory of the past is based in ‘now’ and the future is as we imagine it ‘now’. The present contains our memories of the past as well as our expectations of the future.
Quantum mechanics is all about possibility and probability. It tells us that a particle cannot be definitely placed or located until it is actually measured. Until it is measured in time and space it is only a probability with an infinite number of possibilities. To add to the confusion for us poor amateurs, there is the even more complicated ‘quantum entanglement’ or ‘quantum non-locality’. This means that two entangled particles, each one of a pair of connected particles, can communicate even at great distances. Conceivably, because of the space-time fabric of reality, each of them could be, simultaneously, at a different point in time, not only at a different point in space. Therefore, because they are entangled and communicating, they would be both here right now and here in the future, at the same time.
This is time travel at the micro-level, but it gives rise to and adds credibility to the possibility of time travel at the macro-level. Travelling to the future, albeit just tiny tiny distances into the future, is already possible due to space travel. Astronauts travel forward in time, although the amount of time forward that they move is minuscule. Travelling backward is seen as potentially possible but gives rise to troubling paradoxes.
Time travel requires that there be a ‘past’ or ‘future’ to travel to. Is there a ‘past’ sitting back there somewhere waiting to be visited? Is there a ‘future’ already existing up ahead? The parallel universe theory has been around since the mid 1950s and, in a nutshell, suggests that every time there is an event with more than one possible outcome, all the outcomes occur, each in a separate universe. Something like the ‘choose your own adventure’ children’s books that were popular in the 1980s. All the possible endings were contained in the book and, at critical points, you would make a decision as to the action to be taken by the hero and then follow the story as it unfolded based on that decision.
Mental time travel is a term used to describe travelling to the past or future via our memory or imagination. It was first used by Canadian neuroscientist Endel Tulving. He said, “Remembering, for the rememberer, is mental time travel; a sort of reliving of something that happened in the past.” Modern neuroscience suggests that remembering the past is very similar to imagining the future. Both use similar parts of the brain’s frontal and temporal lobes. It appears that remembering the more distant past is more difficult than recent events. Similarly, envisioning the distant future is harder than imagining the near future. Moreover, as we age, our ability to remember the past or ‘see’ the future shrinks from both ends. I can’t help but wonder if we find it harder to see a far off future because it isn’t there. Perhaps we can only see into the future as far as our personal future goes.
Which leads me to the nature of time and Future Pull. We now know that time is certainly not a clearly defined, mapped out, agreed upon concept. Far from it. We see that the more we know, the more we don’t know. Every discovery creates more questions than it answers. Pondering time and how it flows requires us to adopt a Perspective of Unlimited Possibilities.
So here’s a thought: What if our future is already up there waiting for us? I’m not talking about fate, although the implication that we have the power to pre-determine our future is perhaps on target. If we are self-determining, and I believe we are, we live our lives; our lives don’t live us. But what if we can create, ahead of time, with the power of our imagination and visualization, a future life that we can flow into?
What if we can create such a compelling vision of our future as we want it to be, that we actually create it, up there ahead of us? What if we could create a future so clear and so powerful that it pulled us toward it effortlessly? That is the concept of Future Pull.