Wednesday, July 25, 2012

long time, short time, no time

I am reading the essays in "This Will Make You Smarter" but I switch off to other books, such as "A Universe from Nothing".  Today, I read the classicist from Georgetown U., James O'Donnell:

Because we think and move on a human scale in time and space, we can deceive ourselves.

Brockman, John (2012-02-14). This Will Make You Smarter: 150 New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking (p. 128). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

That kind of words were familiar from yesterday's reading from "Universe":

we humans live such brief lives, at least on a cosmic scale.

Krauss, Lawrence (2012-01-10). A Universe from Nothing (Kindle Locations 1091-1092). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

So do we live a long time or a short time?  The answer, of course, depends on what we mean by "long" and "short"?  Say that modern humans have been on Earth for 200,000 years.  A person who lives to be 70 years old will have been on Earth for .04% of that time.  Not 4%, but just one twenty-fifth of a single percent.  Of course, many humans don't live for 70 years while some live much longer.  The oldest well-documented age is 122+, which is considerably more than 70.

On the other hand, some mayflies evidently live for only 1 hour.  Even though the portion of the whole time of humans covered by a 70 yr. old is quite short, it is about 214 times as long as the portion of a human life covered by a poor little mayfly.  

If you would prefer, you can step out of the whole business of time, according to Eckhart Tolle in "The Power of Now."  He doesn't mean that you won't age but he advocates forgetting about time, about the past and the future.  Be like a cat trying to catch a mouse: just concentrate on what is in front of you.  Tolle says take a moment to stop and see what your next thought is, what it is about.  When you do, you are like a cat watching for the next thought to emerge.  That type of stance pauses one's thinking and during the wait, which of course will be short, you are free of the subject of time.

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