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Constant Of The Universe
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“Only that which can change can continue: this is the principle by which infinite players live.”

-James P. Carse

Great quote for what I thinking about now. I am thinking about time, life, and infinity. All of which are connected, introspected, digested, rejected, (lots of ed’s) inspected, re-evaluated, attempted to be circumvented (I broke English again, but had to) and many more verbs down the line. To me, the keystone of understanding life, infinity, and time is understanding change.

Time is a very straightforward thing. Time is linear. Time is something that moves forward, beats regularly and keeps humans in pace. Time is also a faux idea and is far from any sort of constant that we may know. Time is a mirage that we, as humans, cling to. We set our days by it, our events by it and our very lives by it. Yet, all we know about time is exactly what we know about time, and that is very little. Some have said that time is a constant. A second is a second is a second. Some have been very shortsighted and wrong. One only needs to think about a black-hole.

As an example, in the event that you ever come close to a black-hole and are able to survive the encounter, you might want to bring two clocks with you. Set both clocks for the exact same time. Leave one clock “floating” in space while you move toward the hole with the other clock (I know this is rudely simplified, but it still works). As you approach the black-hole, the clock you are holding will still display the time as it runs. Everything seems fine, and seems constant. Turn around. Turn and look at the clock behind you. You will find that time has sped up and passed by. You and your clock have slowed down, and yet you have not lost that precious beat of your clock to your ears reminding you of seconds slipped away. How can that be? Well, the science behind it is a lot more involved than my simple example. You can assuredly look-up a lot of information to support this example.

As another example about time, let’s look at the fact that time moves depending on where we are on earth. Today is Tuesday, October 1st 2012 at about 11:00am in the eastern United States. What day and time is it in Australia? I can give you a hint that it is a different day and time there, yet if I were to talk to someone from Australia right now, that time difference is inconsequential as to the fact that the conversation is happening at a specified moment (not moment in time). Two different times are occurring at one moment. Interesting. You throw daylight-saving-time into the mix and the plot thickens. Daylight-savings-time was invented by Benjamin Franklin for the purpose of providing more daylight in summer so farmers could get more farming done (farmers who farm? No way!).

Essentially, Ben Franklin created daylight-savings-time out of nothing. Much the same way that calendars were designed originally by the sun, and a 24 hour day is designed about the sun, so came daylight-savings-time. The only problem is that the sun is not a constant either. For one thing, the further you are away from it, and travel around it (we will get back to this when talking about infinity) the longer a day is. We use the sun to compare time as we understand time on earth. Again, interesting. The other issue is that the sun is not everlasting, at least by the knowledge of our scientific minds. The sun, like other stars, is set to burn and reach a final completion, then “fall” out of the heavens like the stars we see fall each night.

So, if time isn’t constant, what is? Is infinity constant? Heraclitus was the first to coin the theory that the only constant in the universe is change. Is infinity change? Now that would make for an interesting discussion! For purposes here, infinity and change are separate “things” that sometimes mix together, but are wholly separated. Think of a Venn diagram. Infinity is easy to understand. Infinity lasts forever, it expands forever, and it is forever. However, is that really the case?

As a humanistic example of infinity being not-so-infinite let’s look at Galileo’s paradox which caused many mathematicians like Georg Cantor to chase infinity into the gates of insanity and death (I must state that his being bipolar caused a lot of his depression and insanity, however the muse for the destruction of Cantor was his math and work on infinity). Here is, again, a very simplified (and I can feel the force of mathematicians weighing down on me already…) understanding of infinity through Cantor and others.

Basically, draw a circle and inside that circle make a point at the center. Now, take straight lines and draw them from the point to the edge of the circle. Do this all the way around the circle. Keep doing it over and over again. If you were to do this, there would be an infinite amount of lines to be made to fully close in the circle. You have created infinity in that circle. But, here is the deal: draw another circle outside of the first one. Now, draw all those lines again, and you will have gaps in between. More lines will have to be drawn than are infinite in the first circle just to make the second circle infinite. That is head-shaking (try Nicolaus Cusanus’s theory on The Paradox of the Infinite Circle). The basic point is that math and science have struggled with infinity. It doesn’t seem to be as infinite as one may hope.

Going back to the “only constant in the universe is change” theory, it is starting to make sense that that is the case. Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (last name drop, I swear…), is famous for saying, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Tell me you haven’t heard that before, and I will ask for the address of the rock you live under. It is a cute way of understanding that change occurs, but that people do not really change. Take racism for example, the Civil Rights Era in the 1960’s should have thwarted racism once and for all. Instead, a new form of racism came about, and that was in the form of social mockery, immigration reform and infringement of civil liberties (again excuse the crudeness). The more things changed around racism, the more racism has stayed the same: racist.

But, change cannot be considered to be so simply understood. Much like the examples in this essay, this is a drive-by of understanding. I could write for days, or pull a Cantor and get lost in this stuff for the rest of my life. This is just a jumping off point, a broaching of dialogue so that down-the-road I can discuss time, change, life and see if I am hypocritical and where I am at in understanding. And that, is exactly the reason I am writing about change. Change may be the only constant that we have out there.

Things change, whether they do in a time format or not. If I were to lay an hourglass on its side, what would the hourglass look like? It would be full of sand in one, or both, of the bulbs of glass, and those sands would be motionless. The hourglass would have the same shape of a horizontal figure eight known as infinity (hmmm…) and since the sands are not moving, time in reference to that glass (and we have ascertained that all time is a measure of the closest reference point to someone) is infinite. It has neither begun nor ended, hence infinity. Now, if that hour glass should change, as in be turned upright, the sand would begin to fall, and down would come the grains. Time, through that hourglass, would move forward. What caused this to happen? Nothing more than the changing of the hourglass’s position.

Isn’t that the key to life? Isn’t life about seeing where we are at, and then wanting to change? Think about it, people complain all the time in marriages and other relationships about how boring the relationship became, how they couldn’t stand the other person because they knew everything about them. The two people never changed, so all that was known had already been known, and knowing what you know and then repeating that knowledge to infinitum is nauseating. It is enough to want to vomit hearing the same old stories over and over again without any change. A healthy marriage is predicated on two people changing, but BOTH those people changing in relation to each other. It’s like the “Pina Colada” song: AKA “Escape” by Rupert Holmes (OKAY! Last reference). Holmes writes a song about a guy who is lonely in his relationship.

He feels that he and his wife do not know each other anymore. He decides to go and find a new girl by responding to an ad in the paper that reads: “If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain…” and a ton of other things that the person writing the ad loves. The guy in the song then responds, and he makes a date to meet the person in the ad (and people think Match and eHarmony are dangerous) at a bar. And when the person that wrote the ad walks in, the guy realizes it’s his wife. And they sort of sheepishly go, “oh, I never knew…” Without change, things stay the same until they are left dead and destroyed. The change that the couple did not go through almost cost them everything they had together, and ironically they both wanted the same change. That is special.

Change needs to occur more frequently like that. We make change all the time, but what does it change? Going to the gym changes my appearance, but do I ever question how it changes me? Going to church changes my desires, but do I ever question how it changes me? I do not often enough. I am so busy changing that I am constantly missing the point. The point is simple; everything I wrote above is human-made, human-digestible bullshit. The core value, the keystone, of it all is change. I had better start appreciating the changes that happen in me and talking about them more, or I will be responding to a lot of ads taken out by a bunch of lives that I do not want.


Street Talk

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