Why I Believe Time is a Fiction of Consciousness:
(Brain Adaptation Dysfunction)
Copyright 2011, John Manimas Medeiros
Ritual actions and ritual beliefs:
Once upon a time, somebody said, "We are creatures of habit." And this is true. We notice this when we make a cup of coffee or buy a muffin every morning for breakfast. We do the same thing every day, such as buy a newspaper and when we do it, where we do it, and how we do it, is all predictable. We like to have some stability in life, because we do have to cope with a lot in life that is not the same every day. Psychologists and sociologists called these personal habits, most of them being common to most people, "rituals." They make us feel, at least briefly, that everything is all right. There is something that we can depend on in life. The tube of toothpaste is there where we expect it to be and we use it every night before going to bed. There is something familiar and re-assuring about that ritual of brushing our teeth, and it makes us feel that we are doing something to take care of ourselves, making our teeth healthier and our smile attractive and reliable. But…
If we are creatures of habit, and there is so much that confirms we are creatures of habit, I contend -- as do many others -- that our habitual behavior does not apply only to the little routine rituals in our daily lives. Our "habits" also apply to our thinking. We are in the habit of thinking the same thoughts and expressing those thoughts in the same words or on the same types of occasions over and over again. These little expressions remind us that we have examined something that occurs in life or in human society, and we have formulated a conclusion or an aphorism or witty saying about the challenge of living. This pattern of behavior we may view as being more rational, not instinctive like our reach for our morning drink or newspaper, or toothbrush. We deem our ideas and views of the world to be more carefully considered, not a reflexive action. All this may be true, but we still may have mental and intellectual habits. Such habitual thoughts and viewpoints are often "political," and can be used to identify any one of us as "liberal" or "conservative" or as belonging to a particular political group with another label. So, our habits include habits of thought. And our views on how the world works are habits of thought. They are principles or theorems or corollaries that serve to guide us, especially when we are under great stress. When careful examination of a sudden situation is not allowed by the circumstances, our brains have to search quickly for guiding principles, for "statements" about how the world works catalogued in our brain's library of axioms and laws that are expected to be reliable in any situation, however grave. That is at least one of the important uses of our world views -- to guide us when slow and careful examination of an unfamiliar situation is not permitted by current conditions. Such guiding principles are often formed early in life, imprinted in the circuitry of our mental library of guiding principles. They serve us all the time, not only in emergencies. If such a principle is formulated and imprinted early in life, and repeatedly appears to be reliable over a large variety of circumstances and situations, it is then entered into another category of information in our cerebral library; it becomes a "law of the universe." This is how "time" becomes a law of the universe. Consider further discussion of this viewpoint on "time."
Fundamental concepts and basic realities about the world one lives in are learned very early, in infancy, and shape one's view of the world. Such early axioms are usually difficult to revise and can be revised only by clearly contrary and repeated experience when older and when one is capable of detached rational analysis. Please note that some people are rarely or never capable of detached rational analysis. Much of what I perceive about how people learn, and do not learn, is derived from my career as a social worker, also from my avocation of self-directed study of human memory, brain development, how people learn, and what might be a reasonable definition of "intelligence."
As a social worker, I learned that children who lie and steal, or fear affection, or learn that words are not required to be followed by action or confirmed by action, have learned those behaviors, and world views, very early in life, possibly even prior to their development of language. We begin to learn as soon as we leave the protective womb and enter the outside world, where our survival and training and opportunities to learn depend entirely on others for at least seven years. We do begin to play a role in our own learning and our own opportunities to process how the world works, but this occurs gradually, and imperceptibly. For our first four to five years, we are learning and adapting, but we are not yet developed enough mentally to examine our own path of learning and adapting. It is only when we are older, sometime after seven years of age, and most likely after ten years of age, that we begin to look back on our personal childhood history and ask ourselves questions about what happened and what it means. What is most important here, in this argument about what "time" is, is the reality that there are some things, some basics or imprinted axioms, that we learn very early in life, and those are the most fixed of views and outlooks in one's library of important information. Such fundamental principles of reality are more like a shelf in the library or a concrete floor that cannot be moved or changed in any way, rather than like a book that can be revised or have a page torn out or can be removed from a shelf. Just how difficult it is to re-examine or reconsider these "early adaptive principles" was demonstrated to me in graphic and even comical ways during my social worker experience. What a child learns very early in life is how to survive in the environment that applies at that time. Changing the environment years later does not result in instantaneous adjustment to the new situation. This is why taking care of foster children who have a long history of living in an abusive or neglectful household does not result in sudden positive changes in behavior. It is a long haul, and sometimes the changes hoped for do not come until much later, or never. One of my supervisors in an adoption unit summed up the reality for some early teens beautifully: "These kids are going to need someone to visit them in jail." She was not joking. She was saying that everyone needs a parent, a primary caretaker or a family, even if the only purpose that family can serve is to visit you in jail.
Imprints on a child's mind:
Here are three true stories from my social work experience that were imprinted on my mind instantaneously when they occurred. I immediately recognized these as basic principles about how people learn, how what is learned in infancy can be so difficult or impossible to change.
Story #1) I was talking to a young boy, age eleven, about his situation in foster care. He had been moved many times because several foster parents complained that they could not cope with him because "I'm not getting anything back." I told the boy that his current foster mother really loved him and cared about him. He replied, " I know. I love her too. I just don't show it."
Hopefully, the reader can see the humor in this statement, and the tragedy, and the sacred wisdom in this boy's statement that registered with me immediately as an statement never to be forgotten. What that boy said was precisely true, and it confirmed something that virtually every social worker learns if they work with children placed in a state's custody: children can and do learn that it is dangerous to show affection; dangerous to show that you care about an adult caretaker; very dangerous to say or demonstrate that you "love" them. Why? Because if they know you love them or care about them, they will betray you. They will use you, possibly sexually, possibly demand that you do something dangerous or criminal or both. They will hurt you because they know that if you love them they can hurt you. And so, having had several years of experience in the world of foster care, I understood the meaning of what that boy was saying. I knew that it was true, and I knew that there was probably going to be little that I, or he, could do about it. He might learn to love and show love, but only a very, very optimistic person would expect that to happen soon.
Story #2) One of the most challenging young boys I had to find suitable professional care for had been severely neglected for many years and had lived in a household of adults with poor mental health. Let's call him "Ralph" although that was not his real name. He openly described himself as "Ralphie the serial killer." He was pale and both short and thin for his age, looking like he was eleven when he was age fourteen. He had been placed in institutional settings with mixed results. His progress, if there were any real progress, was painfully slow. I was driving him from one placement to another, an all too frequent occurrence. We had friendly conversations before. So, both for his own comfort and mine, as well as to see if I could discover any additional information that might help me understand this boy and his needs, I attempted to discuss his dreams about what he wanted to be. This was of course a perfectly legitimate topic for any fourteen-year-old boy. Possibly not what he wanted to talk about all the time, but certainly this is what caring adults ask a fourteen-year-old boy or girl -- what would you like to do when you grow up, or when you graduate from high school.
Ralph replied, "I want to be a professional basketball player."
I thought that a highly questionable dream for him, given his many social and behavioral issues, and his small size. I was uncertain of his athletic ability, and it occurred to me that possibly he had been discovering some talent in that area. So, being a social worker -- scratch a social worker and you will find an "investigator" -- I asked a probing question: "So, do you play basketball much now?"
And that was his only answer. What does reality have to do with what I want to be when I grow up? What connection is there between what I imagine being in the future and what I do now? How does one "become" anything anyway? Dreams are dreams, and reality is reality, and the two are totally disconnected. This boy possessed a trait or a quality that is common among the poor, the emotionally disabled, the survivors of severe childhood neglect or repeated abuse. They do not have a grasp on what psychologists call "self-actualization." Self-actualization could be compared to "existentialism" or stated more simply: What most normal people possess is the fundamental principle that it is possible, though in some cases difficult, to live through a path of self-directed cause and effect. This means, simply, I want to be a carpenter; I am taking shop courses and learning carpentry; my uncle hires me summers to work with him on building houses; this is how one becomes a carpenter; my "dream" or plan to become a carpenter is realistic because I am doing what one does to learn the craft of carpentry. I have conceived of a goal and I am achieving it over time. Note that incredibly important phrase "over time." This "carpenter in training" is living in the real world and acting upon reliable principles. They are consistent with and encompassed by the principles of "self-actualization." It is possible to have a wish, a dream or a plan, and then to identify the steps to make that wish or plan become a reality, and then take those steps. It is possible to be what one wants to be. This is so basic to most people, within the definition of a "normal" person, but often missing from the world view of those whose personality is formed by severe neglect in early childhood. Their world view is not like mine or yours. They lived in a different world and their brains adapted, as human brains do, not to a world in a book or imagined or talked about, but the world in which they lived. If the infant's world was crazy, or dangerous, or disturbed, or painful, or unpredictable or torturous, or full of irrational punishment and betrayal, then all of those experiences will form that child's view of the real world. When the child's world was devoid of the principle that the middle class treasures, the formula that is stated in the simple phrase "you can be what you want to be," then this principle is absent from the child's mind. You cannot push it into the teenage survivor's brain. It does not matter what you say, and in many cases it does not matter what special learning experiences you arrange for such a child or adolescent. In some cases this absence of the concept of self-directed progress is termed "learned helplessness." This is not a political or philosophical viewpoint; it is confirmed by scientific experiment.
For Ralph and for many of the children I had in my custody the principle that one could conceive of a self-development goal and then pursue it and then achieve it was not only absent, it was specifically prohibited. It was forbidden because it was terribly dangerous. We social workers learned that in the homes of the disturbed, and especially in the homes dominated by violent alcoholics, there was nothing more dangerous for a child than to say what they wanted. The child learned, sometimes through explosive experience, that to say what you want is to have what you want destroyed forever. Severe and aggressive alcoholics are noted for their pattern of promising the world and giving nothing. No one has or is allowed to have any needs greater than theirs, no one of any age. We saw this personality trait in so many damaged children: a) Do not show love. b) There is no connection between promising words and action -- dreams are dreams that apply only in the dream world; c) Do not say what you want. Keep what you want a secret; you can obtain it secretly sometimes, but never openly. d) Do not let anyone know what you feel. The child becomes so committed to concealing what they feel, they conceal their feelings even from themselves.
Story #3) I was driving a young mother from her home to the foster home where her three young children were placed, for a visit. She had dropped out of school very early, and showed all the signs of being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She married a total loser who abused drugs, could not hold a job, and was found guilty of sexually abusing one of her daughters. She still wanted to stay married to him and live with him and the children together. Senseless by our standards, reasonable to her. Somehow this uncomfortable but necessary situation lead me to asking her what she wanted to do with her life. It is fair to say that I was deliberately testing her connection with reality.
She replied, "I want to have a horse farm, about twenty acres, and run a horseback riding school." No connection to reality that I was aware of. I believe her net worth at the time fell between zero and minus $1,000. I had learned something about her, which was my duty, but there was nothing about riding skills or managing a business or taking care of anything. I remember thinking that a person who cannot take of children is probably not going to be good at taking care of horses. I believe I changed the subject, and we did not follow with a lively conversation. It can be very difficult, and is not recommended, to try to be friendly with a parent who is unlikely to get her children back. This was one of those cases, and was one of the worst for me in terms of trying hard and being punished for my efforts. The social worker is the person the parent sees and hears. They often see the social worker as the one who took their children away. Besides the logistical and bureaucratic challenges of the job, the social worker experiences the pain and suffering and intractable helplessness of their clients. This is called "vicarious post traumatic stress disorder." If you are around people day after day who have suffered emotional trauma, you pick up the feelings of being traumatized. It is not a good feeling.
Early learning difficult to change:
What does all this have to do with "time"? The stories I have told here illustrate something extremely important about how people learn. What we learn very early in life, from the world we actually live in early in life (not from Disney World), engraves the principles of that world on our brains, because that is the world we must learn to live in. When we are infants, we do not have a library of all possible worlds in our brain. The only world we know is the one we live in, and that is the "normal" world. The axioms are formed from that experience. Changing those axioms later is like trying to remove a vehicle identification number with a facial tissue.
From this type of experience I extrapolated that for those of us who are born into a more benevolent world, there are still some axioms that we learn very early in life. There must be some axioms that all humans learn very early in life. In view of what I have discussed here about how people learn, it follows logically that any common axiom about the real world that we learn very early in life must be very difficult to change or revise later in life. This is why, one might argue, we need science. Because it is so hard for us to revise what we "know," we need a very powerful method to pry the oyster of habitual thinking open. One can also argue, as I do here, that sometimes we do not even try to pry the oyster of habitual thinking open. We are so comfortable the way things appear to be, why change the landscape? That is what habitual thinking is. Just like we enjoy our morning drink and newspaper, or church twice a year, or a vacation in August, we like our world portrait just the way it has been painted. No matter how liberal or radical you think you are, human beings don't like to change the world that they have already learned to live in. If we change that world, then we have to discard old knowledge and learn new knowledge. Much of our knowledge is like pages in a loose leaf binder. We just have to remove a page and put in a new page. But not the axioms we learned in infancy. They are like ancient treasured leather-bound books. The pages are sewed and glued in. They are family treasures. Museum quality. I can't tear a page out of that book! Are you crazy? Grandma, Grandpa, even God bound that book together. Don't tell me to change that book. It's a Van Gogh, a da Vinci, a Picasso. It's Jefferson and Mother and Father and Ghandi and Moses and Jesus and Mohammed. Its ME you son-of-a-bitch. Are you proposing to change ME! Before you can change me you have to gain access. You have to be granted permission. Around every tender human brain there is an armed guard. The physical bone skull is supported by protective doors, hidden locks and switches.
Let me discuss brain development a bit more to add still more persuasion to my argument. Therapists, psychiatrists, and researchers in brain development point out that some abuse or neglect could have occurred, or is known to have occurred, when the child was "pre-verbal." It is impossible or at best extremely difficult for that person -- when still young or much older -- to process or analyze that experience, because it was not a verbal or ordered, logical, linguistically defined experience. To simplify, it is like saying that it is hard to talk about something that occurred before you knew how to talk. It is just as hard to think about something that occurred before you knew how to think. It was not an experience that was known as an intellectually or verbally examined experience when it occurred; it was strictly emotional, sensory, even spiritual. Therefore, it cannot be examined or processed using verbal language which is the primary tool of logic and reasoning.
Genetic, post-genetic and pre-analytical:
Here is yet another challenging issue related to how people learn. Is a personality trait or quality genetically inherited or the result of life experience? Many types of personality traits can appear to be genetic, can appear to be so deeply engrained that they must not have been learned or developed after birth but must have come naturally as part of the genetic inheritance of the child, or adult, but they may in fact have been developed as "post-genetic" traits or traits that developed very early in life. This means learning that occurred after birth but is "pre-analytical" because when that learning experience had its impact the child could not think about it or reason about it. It has no name and is not placed in a rational category. It is catalogued in a dark corner as "extremely important and basic" but cannot be opened for further, detailed examination. The pages cannot be read or interpreted, but the axioms they represent are imprinted in a code, a code that is inaccessible. All the inquiring adult can do in therapy is feel and mourn and make one's best effort to move on, to carry this burden wherever one goes but make it lighter by making oneself stronger.
Brain Adaptation Dysfunction:
My most consistent interest during my lifetime has been how we learn. We start learning from day one. What we learn earliest lays the foundation for all future learning. The brain does what it is intended to do and does so quite wondrously, it adapts. It builds knowledge for survival based upon experience. During my many years as a social worker and teacher, the most devastating and pessimistic statement I ever heard made about a child or adolescent is that he or she "does not learn from experience." To not learn from experience is like not having an admission ticket to human civilization. What good are you to yourself or anyone else if you do not learn from experience? You are dangerous, you cannot even be relied upon to act upon common knowledge. And so, this magical strength of our human brain, the amazing ability to adapt to the world that one encounters in our earliest experience, is also a weakness. What if the world we experience as infants is not "normal" really, but is strange, distorted, disturbed, the painful and continuously distressing world created by mentally ill caretakers? I would like to give a name to what happens, and I call it brain adaptation dysfunction. What this name means is that if the infant child adapts to a dysfunctional world environment, the brain incorporates the dysfunctional characteristics of that world. It is kind of like saying that if one learns to swim in an environment of water, it becomes nearly impossible, the longer one swims in the cold elusive water, to learn how to walk on solid earth.
Brain Adaptation Dysfunction for everyone:
Taking this analysis of how we learn one step further, it is most likely that any axiom learned by "normal" infant children in a "normal" world environment could be incorrect from a strictly scientific viewpoint. Such axioms would not apply only to knowledge about people and human behavior, but also to knowledge about how we deal with the real, physical world, how we count and measure, how we communicate about ourselves and about others, what we are doing, what has been done, what will be done. Notice, my friend, that as soon as we begin learning, we encounter the concept of "time," of past, present and future. An axiom that says something about the real world is like any other basic principle we learn very early in life: right or wrong, it is going to be very hard to change, especially if no one expects us to change it or asks us to change it. With regard to how and what we learn about "time" very early in life, rather than call that phenomenon "brain adaptation dysfunction," I suggest it be called "a fiction of consciousness." What is happening right here and right now (an interval of time) is I am asking you to change your axiomatic belief about what "time" is. I am asking you to consider my argument that you learned to measure and talk about time very early in life, and that made time a very real thing for you -- for us -- but time is really only a measurement and nothing more than a measurement. It does not exist independently of the measuring, which is a mental operation. It exists only in the mind and not outside the human mind. That is why I say "fiction of consciousness."
Measurements and time as a fiction of consciousness:
All human measurements are comprised of the same mental process. We identify a unit of measurement -- length, weight, volume, height, width, duration (time), and then we count the units. But measurements of real, concrete things can be separated from what they measure. For example, if we measure the length of a stick, and we count 78 centimeters, or 32 inches, that will be the length of the stick in compliance with whatever level of precision we have selected as adequate. Mentally, we can conceive of "length" as a physical quality independent of any specific measurement of such quality. We can also state that the stick possesses "length," but we do not and will not claim that the stick is itself "length." The stick itself is an object, not a quality. With two fingers, we could "walk" the length of the stick, just as we can walk a length of 50 yards on the ground with our legs. But the length is neither the ground nor the stick. The length is a measurement and we can easily exercise the mental process of separating the measurement of length from the object or physical material that possesses the quality of length that we are measuring. We cannot do this with "time."
Every event is a process that possesses duration or occupies an interval of "time." We measure time only as the duration of an event or process and we can say that such an event or process does possess such a measured duration: 25 minutes or 1 hour or 17 days. But time is unlike length and weight and volume in that we cannot separate the measurement of duration from the quality of duration itself. I can hand you a stick but I cannot hand you an hour. I cannot hang a white hour on the wall or paint it green. Time does not possess independent tangibility. A stick can be mentally and physically separated from the measurement of its length, but we cannot separate "time" from the measurement of it. All clocks are embodied in a natural cyclical process, the repetition of an "interval" of action that we label as "time" because such an interval is always the same, or apparently the same, in duration. The quality of time and duration therefore is unlike our other measurements of physical qualities. My perception of reality is that "time" is always a clock and only a clock. Time is always the process of counting a cyclical event that is essentially a natural, physical process. We cannot separate what we are measuring --"time"-- from the measurement itself in the way we can separate a specific stick from the counting of its "length."
What about relativity?
Like many scientists, I believe that relativity is a theory with flaws that will be corrected with further progress. Those who defend the definition of physical reality as a "space-time continuum" claim that experiments with rockets confirm the theory that time will "dilate" for a human passenger traveling at near or greater than the velocity of light. But because time is inseparable from a clock, my argument is that clocks, being physical devices, are subject to change their operational processes due to changes in the physical conditions under which they are operating. We all know that mechanical and electronic devices behave differently due to what we call "extreme changes in temperature." So, why should we be surprised to find that the operation of a clock changes due to "extreme changes in velocity"? When a clock is traveling at an extreme velocity or acceleration, it measures duration, or counts its cyclical events, differently. That seems perfectly consistent with the behavior of matter as we know it. Why should a clock not be affected by an extreme change in velocity?
Physicists currently argue that the foundation of the genesis of matter and the fundamental causes of the behavior of matter are things such as "the weak force" and "the strong force." We all know that the behavior of physical matter is influenced by "forces." So, if we change the force that causes velocity, the matter that comprises the clock will be influenced, or changed, by that change in force. This does not look like a new law to me, but just a familiar occurrence of the basic laws that govern the interactions between "forces" and matter.
Why did we evolve to possess the conviction that time is real?
If my proposition that time is a fiction of consciousness is to be taken seriously, then there would have to be an explanation as to why our brains are so convinced that time is a real thing, so real that we can even travel through it. Such a concept of time travel suggests that time is a line that can be measured and marked like a string with length. Or, it suggests a reality where "the universe" includes the simultaneous occurrence of all events that have ever occurred in the past, are occurring now, and will occur in the future; all events of all times are like rooms that we can enter, then leave. This is obviously quite weird, and produces many mind-twisting questions and problems with regard to how this all could work.
[A side note on language: Some physicist-entertainers and astronomers go so far as to say that there may be "other realms" or "parallel universes" or "other universes." This is an act of destroying logical language, because saying that there may be "many universes" is to say that there are many entities where each entity includes all that exists. It is like saying, mathematically, there are many sets that are the largest of all sets, forgetting that if there are many such sets, then they can be counted and they are a set that includes all the largest sets, and that would serve as proof that the set of all the largest sets is the universe, which means the sets included in that set cannot be "universes."]
I offer the explanation of evolution and the fact that perception and mental manipulation of cause and effect, or of past, present and future, is necessary in order for an animal to be a technological animal, as we humans are. Through the evolutionary process we have become technological animals. Body skills, language skills and brain power all evolved side by side, not one before the other. We learned to talk while we learned to walk while we learned to observe while we learned to think while we learned to manipulate ("mani-" means "hand") while we learned to calculate, while we learned to learn. We cannot identify a "missing link" because the link is a very long link, a journey and a process that occurred over many thousands of years. Or, one could argue that we are the missing link we are looking for. In any case, the knowledge we already possess about ourselves suggests that it is probably not valid to label any stage of our own evolution as signifying the dramatic crossing of a boundary between "not-human" and "human." One could argue that we have been human already for a very long time, and that we still behave as though we are not human. We may be therefore, the spectacle of a technological primate looking for the event in the past where we became human, but we are comically and tragically mistaken in our search because we are not human yet.
Technology is the process of thought, conception, understanding, analysis, language, plan, action, result. This process requires, absolutely requires, the conceptualization of cause and effect, a causal chain. When first learned, either early in the evolutionary process, or early in childhood, the first basic categories or concepts are past (occurred before), present (is occurring now), and future (will or shall occur). Our grammatical structure represents this in every spoken language. Participles or tenses are the most important aspect of a statement made in any language. Any statement about an occurrence needs to include a linguistic indicator as to when it occurred - past, over time in the past, just now, or has not occurred yet but is expected to occur, or predicted to occur.
Although there is "time" in our brains, there is no time in Nature. Nature invents only what is necessary, and Nature does not need time, only matter and process. Every clock, every measurement of time, is only a comparison of one cyclical event with another.
Back to how we learn, how we learn about time, such as now, later, soon, yesterday, never, is that we learn these basic concepts of time very early in life, probably when we are learning "peek-a-boo" and how an object we cannot see still exists, and when we have barely learned a handful of words. Parents report that infants less than six months old, long before speech and hand dexterity, "have their own schedule" and appear to be responding to, or in tune with, rhythms of time. Children discuss concepts of time before they learn how to "tell time" or read a clock. This may appear to be genetic, or to be a "biological clock." But all clocks, including biological clocks, are the same thing, counting of a cyclical event. It does not matter whether the counting is conscious and deliberate or subconscious. Either genetic or learned soon after birth, a sensitivity to time is imprinted extremely early in life, and therefore appears to us to be as natural and real as hunger or pain. Our brains are imprinted at a very early age with the idea that time is an independent reality. But only the clocks are real; time is not.
Try this game, which I call "Life Without Time." Try to engage in a conversation between two people or among three to five people. The rules are that no one can say anything that is a reference to time, or to the past, the present or future. You can talk about anything you want, but you cannot ever say anything about when an event occurred or when you had a thought, or any word whatsoever that identifies a measurement of time. Good luck. Note that to be consistent with the rules of this game, it may not even be valid to ask another person "How are you?" Because "are" is a word that implies the present, which is a concept of time. So, to seriously play this game of "Life Without Time," you would have to eliminate all words that convey "tense," which means words that convey the meaning of "being." If you "are," you must be in the present, and that violates the rules of "Life Without Time."
I'm open for lunch…
If you want to show me a piece of time, something that we can "travel over" with our fingers or a space vehicle, let me know. Of course, if we are traveling over time, it is not really a space vehicle. It would have to be a time vehicle. I can meet with you next Wednesday. Is Wednesday good for you? This would be hard if we were playing "Life Without Time." I could only say "I can meet with you." And you could only say "That's nice." You could not ask me "When?" This game is even harder than I thought, even the word "meet" conveys time, because it means something different from "met" and "meeting." I suspect talking may be impossible without making reference to time.
That we must make references to time in order to communicate is not evidence that time must be real, it is evidence that time must be a requirement for an animal that thinks, talks, plans and does things to get the results they want (have conceived), and all that activity that comprises what we call "technology." Is any part of our activity not technology? Sleeping I suppose, and… . But one sleeps on a bed. What do we do without using a tool or having used a tool to prepare to do it? Thus, technological animals must possess this concept of time in order to be technological, and that is why we possess this concept. Otherwise, it is not needed. Plants and other animals do not make references to clocks. They follow rhythms more or less automatically, but you cannot approach a squirrel in Central Park and ask it "How old are you?" and get an answer. The squirrel does not know, and does not care. It does not need to have time, and neither does anything else, except us. So, that is why we have "time" in our brains, and why time does not exist outside of our brains. This is an occurrence of brain adaptation dysfunction. By adapting very early in life to the necessity of the concept of time in order to be a technological animal, we perceive time as being a real, independent entity. Compare this to the human experience of early religious indoctrination. If, when barely able to think, we are told that God created the universe and decides whether we will be eternally happy or eternally feel the pain of fire, it is difficult for us, later in life, to revise our "knowledge" of God. And, for many centuries the Jewish, Christian and Muslim societies have been indoctrinating children as early in life as possible. The practice of baptizing a child is discredited by many people of all religions on the ground that the child has no idea what is occurring or what it means. Therefore, this common human experience of the individual struggle with doubts about early indoctrination is another piece of evidence I offer in support of my viewpoint regarding "time." We believe it is real because from our earliest experience time is the controlling factor in our lives.
Think back to the lives of infants. "Put your toys away, it's time to eat. Stop playing now, we are already late. When will Jane come over to play? Are we there yet? I have to pee. How long before we get to a rest room? When is my birthday? How many days til Christmas? Mommy, when were you born? When did Grandma die? How old was grandpa when he died? When will this movie be over? How long do we have to wait for the pizza?" Imagine that we removed all clocks from the world, and it was against the law to measure time. Where would time be without clocks? We could still pick up a stick and use it to beat a dead horse, but not for long, because "long" is a measurement made with a clock.
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