Would you believe it, should someone tell you that at this very moment you are experiencing a number of pasts simultaneously? No doubt your immediate response would be, “That’s just absurd!” But doesn’t it ever occur to you that the stars you see in the sky are actually in their past condition, not in their present condition? Does this not mean at present we too are experiencing “a number of pasts” of the stars?
A Life of Illusions
If you look at a photograph for which you and I posed together a year ago, what usually happens is that you will at once begin to have visions of all the events that you and I were both going through then. This is particularly true if what you suppose to be your past condition is recorded on video tape such that each time you play the video tape again you will feel as if you are looking at the whole of that past condition of yours. Now, what would happen if you were to really experience that past condition while you are watching it on video? “Nonsense,” you would no doubt say. Certainly you would say that all those things about man being able to get into, or go back to, his past can happen only in fictions, movie stuff or the like. But, is that so? Let’s now take a look at some of those supernatural phenomena in our surroundings, especially those distant ones.
When we look up at the sky, especially at night, the stars we see in the sky are in their past condition—the lights radiated by these objects need time to reach our eyes. If, for instance, the light of a star takes one year to get to our eyes, then the star that we now see is not what it really is at present, but rather what it was a year ago. The stars that we see at this very moment could be in their condition of one year ago, or ten years ago, or perhaps even millions of years ago. In fact, it is also possible that among these numerous celestial bodies that we see as tangible objects, some may have either utterly changed, or moved elsewhere, or completely diminished. Let’s say that it’s now 9.00 a.m. The sun explodes, but you are not aware of this, because it takes 8 minutes for the image of the explosion to get into your eyes. So, at 9.oo a.m. you still see the sun intact. At 9.08 you realize that the sun has exploded, though at that time the condition of the sun has actually gotten worse, because the explosion has spread over a wider area. This, you simply aren’t able to see yet. Similarly, all those things around us need time to get to our eyes and further to our brain. An object a meter away from us needs 1/300,000,000 of a second to get to our eyes. Thus, we can say that this object that we see is in its condition of 1/300,000,000 of a second ago. This holds true not only for those external conditions transmitted by light but also for those transmitted by the air. When, for instance, a gun two miles away from us is fired, it will only be about eight seconds later that we will hear the gunshot—not to mention the time that the impression of the sound takes to reach the brain, which must certainly be also taken into account no matter how short it can be. Obviously, at the time we hear the gunshot, the gun itself has already finished its shooting eight seconds ago. Similar is the case with the feelings captured by the skin, the various compounds tasted by the tongue, or the various molecules that enter our nostrils. All these take time to reach the brain, don’t they? Viewed in the sense of experience as defined above, it could, therefore, be said that we are always belated in our knowledge of the external conditions, though this could be only as short as 1/3,000,000,000 of a second. However, since different people have different body conditions, the rate of this belatedness rightly varies from person to person. Other factors that are also determinative of this rate of belatedness are our locality and the medium being used in the delivery of the external stimuli. As such, whatever our definition of the word “experience” is, we can still say for certain that at present human beings are always experiencing “the past of everything around them.” It is as if we were experiencing/undergoing different periods of time, or a number of pasts in the present, simultaneously.
Considering the fact that we are consistently experiencing movements or changes of condition from time to time, it is perhaps worthwhile for us to spend some time discussing what we mean by “to experience” here. A sure and easy way to get a clearer explanation about the meaning of the word is, of course, by looking it up in a dictionary. In the Random House Webster’s dictionary, for instance, experience as a verb, is defined as to live through or undergo. The Collins Concise Dictionary Plus defines it as to be moved by or feel, and the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines it as to feel. In fact, there are as many definitions of the word as there are people who think about it. But let’s now examine the limitations of the existing definitions. “To experience” in general involves two things: the condition of our external environment and that of our bodies. Because we have the five senses, we are certainly able to receive the various external stimuli, which are then instantly passed on to the brain so that we become aware of the presence of something coming from outside of our bodies. The phrase “to experience” is generally associated with our senses, particularly our sense of sight. As it turns out, not all external matter is felt by our senses. There are things that we are just unable to monitor, such as the electromagnetic waves, certain kinds of rays, magnetic fields, and certain pitches of sounds, etc. Apart from these, the failure to feel the presence of external matter can also be attributed to certain functional disorders or abnormalities of the receiving end. Now, what if our bodies receive external stimuli in a manner as described above: Could we still say that we have actually been experiencing something, even if we do not feel it? Are we entitled to say that we had just experienced an operation, despite the fact that we did not feel it because we were then anesthetized? What about those lepers, whose affected parts of their bodies are just unable to feel anything at all, because their nerves have become dysfunctional? Now, what if we are unable to recall certain memories stored in our brains due to amnesia or other causes? Are we justified in saying that we have never experienced such and such a thing? So blurry is the meaning of “to experience” that to establish an accurate definition of the phrase could be a really demanding job. The phrase “to experience” in this article denotes a state wherein our bodies come into contact with anything external to our bodies; or a state wherein we are dealing with issues that occur within our bodies themselves; or a state wherein we are dealing with issues from within our brains, regardless of whether we feel it or not, whether we are aware of it or not, and whether we are able to recall it or not.
Apparently, compared with the other senses, our eyes are the ones that play a greater role here. This means that what we see around us at present is not the present state of things, which makes it reasonable for us to say that those things around us are but mere illusions. If according to the physicist these are just common natural phenomena, where then does this term “to experience” fit in? Doesn’t one of their definitions suggest that a man is said to be experiencing something when his eyes receive stimuli from some external condition? That external condition is the image of the stars several years ago which we receive only at the present time. Why are we able to see the “past” of the various celestial objects and also of our surroundings? Are we then not justified in saying that the world in which we live is one of illusions and that no matter what our experience of the surrounding condition is, this condition is just not what it really is?