The Time Span of “the Present”
Verily this is a phrase that is very common to all of us. But can we define it in such a way that the definition will, as close as possible, portray the actual thing that it is supposed to represent? The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, however defines “ ‘ the present time’—at present,” “during this time,” or “NOW,” despite the fact that in our real life situation we constantly feel that we are at “the present time” the whole of our life. Being living creatures, we have definitely “never” been in “the past.”
“Have you ever been in ‘the past’?” Or, “Would it be possible for you, with the aid of a ‘time-machine’, to revisit ‘your past’ or visit ‘your future’ just the way those people do it in fictional movies?” Of course, this is something that has never happened and can never happen, even if facts have shown us that some of the advancement made in today’s modern technology has fictional stories as its prelude.
In the light of all this, Albert Einstein’s words, as once quoted, that “Time does not exist. The only ‘time’ that exists is an eternal moment of Now,” are indeed a lot of help to us in that they serve to generate our understanding of the contents of this article. Let’s now take a brief look at this thing that we commonly refer to as “now” or “the present.”
The fact that we have now and then been expressing the phrase, “the present” may seem to be a confirmation that the three sequences of time do exist. Do we have an accurate definition of “the present”? Actually, how long is the time span that we call now or the present? If we are to say “five seconds,” this definitely means that the time prior to the beginning of the first second must be the past? If such is the case, how many seconds then is the “now” or “present”? Is it one second, 0.1 second, 1/100,000,000 of a second, or close to 0 second? Considering the fact that no matter how short a time span is people can always split it into “the past” and “the present,” one can thus deduce that 0 second, being the point at which no more division could be made, would be the most accurate figure. In other words, at this point, terms such as “the past” and “the present,” as normally used by people, should no longer hold.
Apparently, as far as time is concerned, there are only two choices left for us in our acceptation of the term “the present”: either to accept it as being eternal or to simply accept it as being non-existent. Admittedly, we have so far failed to appropriately determine the “span of time” of what we really mean by “the present.” What’s more, we have so far also been habitually associating “the present” with “the past” and “the future,” despite the fact that whatever change we are experiencing is actually a mere change of condition. To put it another way, our very existence is one that is constantly undergoing a variety of changes without ever knowing time, whether this be a change of the condition of the past, the present, or the future. (See also The “Always-Present” Contents of the Universe)
Now that we have come this far, what is your opinion of “time”? Firstly, we are at present experiencing the past condition of things. Secondly, we feel our existence to be always at the present. Finally, we have failed to appropriately determine the “span of time” of what we mean by “the present.” Could it be that such incongruities are but a mere result of the simplicity of the concept of time as initially introduced by the ancient humans with all their limitations? If we are to argue that this man-made time is just an attempt to “draw a division” between the changing conditions, as they relate to the rotation of the earth, why then has this meaning of “time” become so complicated? The claim that “time” does not exist may indeed seem to require us to replace all our current conceptions about time with “condition.” But what do we have to lose then? “Time” and “condition” are, after all, both terms coined by man. But unlike time, condition can provide us with a greater sense of closeness with the reality. Doing away with all those ideas about “time” will enable us to see things, either the ones that exist in our natural environments or the ones within our selves, as they really are, that is, more in terms of their “condition.”
To help the readers fully digest the contents of this book, the writer has intentionally repeated his explanations time and again, paraphrasing them wherever necessary.