Sunday, January 24, 2010
work, space and time.
In many ways I miss working. Working is an excellent way to mark the passing of time. You get up, you get ready, you go to work, you watch the clock and wait until you can go home again. Work makes one acutely aware of time. The time of the day, the day of the week, the month, the year; all of these things are part of one's existence.
These days, most people think of space like a giant box that stuff exists in. But it wasn't always that way. At several times in history people thought of space as something that is relative. It didn't exist in and of itself. (to simplify,) Space was nothing more than our perception of how physical objects interacted. Object A is to the left of object B and we see this as a space between A and B. If there were no objects, then there would be no space (opposed to the Everyman idea that if there was no space, there would be no objects). If there was simply one object existing, then there would still be no space. Space, for several individuals of history, requires two or more objects interacting.
I don't know if people still think this way about space. I suspect that quantum mechanics has something to say on the subject. Something like: space is a manifestation of the observation of the collapsing of the probability of the interrelationships of physical forms. But that's what they all say.
What matters is that according to this theory of space, it is something that requires participation. It requires two objects being left and right of each other. It requires an observer to look at them and say, ah yes, they are not in the same space. It requires more than just looking, Space requires evaluation and the understanding that A is to the left of B. Without these things space is for people like Leibniz, nothing more than unexpressed possibilities. In other words, it doesn't exists (qua space).
I don't know if I agree with this. The problem is that I don't fully get it. I have a chicken that understands it better than I do. She can walk through wire fences that contain all the other hens. She is not able to do this when observed, but like the weeping angles of Doctor Who, she moves through the fence only when we are not looking.
One can think about time in similar ways. Is it, as my watch would have me believe, a constant ticking away of events? Is it a line that events cram themselves into? Is it like space, a container that events fit into? Is it somewhat dependent on how fast you are moving through the universe? Or is it like many of the above alluded to thinkers suggested, created out of our observation and understanding?
I am more and more convinced that time, as in the relationship of events to each other, is more dependent on our perception than most people realize.
I'm not talking about time in the sense that a digital watch measures. I'm thinking about time as in how our day progresses. Time as the interrelationship of events that we experience. Time in this sense is very different than time according to a clock.
We participate in our perception of time. Take that fellow from Catch 22, who tried to be board all the while because when you are board, time moves more slowly and if time moves more slowly he would live a longer life.
Without something like work (or school) to mark the time of the day, it's really difficult to see the passing of time. The day takes on a slower pace and things have less sense of urgency. It is no longer that I have to have X amount of tasks finished by 11am. It's more like I have to have all the animals fed and watered twice a day, once before breakfast whenever that is and once before dark, whenever that is. I have to spread manure on the garden before we dig it and and we need to dig it before we plant and we need to plant sometime in the spring depending on the weather. If I'm not feeling well, or if it's raining, less gets done. Sometimes more gets done. But it's more or less the same thing every day. I notice that the buds on some of the trees are swelling now so it's a different day than a few weeks ago when the buds were smaller.
Time is no longer marked by seconds or minutes. Even hours and days have very little meaning here. Weeks and seasons seem to be the units for counting time.
I like that there is less stress in this way of keeping time. But it's also difficult to interact with the rest of the world where things are so much more urgent.