A Case for Flamenco Dots

So, polka dots. I understand polka (I’m from Wisconsin after all). I understand dots. Whence, however, polka dots? This question arises because Flipboard just posted a photo gallery of Yayoi Kusama installations. If you’re not familiar with Kusama, she’s a Japanese writer and multimedia artist whose works often feature a “thematic interest in psychedelic colors, repetition, and pattern,” e.g., polka dots.

But what’s the story on polka dots, the origin story that is? Merriam-Webster’s no help. All it can offer is “a dot in a pattern of regularly distributed dots in textile design.” Wikipedia’s not much better. It vaguely notes that the name must have come from an association with the dance. This is based on the OED definition, which says of “polka,” “on account of the popularity of the dance, polka was prefixed as a trade name to articles of all kinds, e.g., the polka curtain-band (for looping up curtains), polka-gauze, polka hat, a pattern consisting of dots of uniform size and arrangement [polka-dot — notice the hyphenation; oh those Brits].

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If you stare at them long enough, they start to dance, right?

But then Wikipedia also says that flamenco dancers often wear polka dots, so why aren’t they flamenco dots? The latter seems much more akin to haut couture than the former: “Darling, which flamenco dots should I wear today? The Versace or the Stella McCartney?” Right?

Ah, here’s something with more substance: “A Brief History of Polka Dots” by Chloe Pantazi. Chloe skips over the thorny origin issue at first and gets right to the important stuff: fashion. She thinks America first fell in love with the dots when they saw pictures of Miss America of 1926 wearing a polka-dot swimsuit (it’s okay to hyphenate if it’s an adjective, what’s the term, clump?). Then Minnie Mouse donned her red polka-dot dress and bow in 1928. Then Frank Sinatra sang “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” in 1940 and in the same year The Los Angeles Times gushed, “You can sign your fashion life away on the polka-dotted line, and you’ll never regret it.”

Next came Christian Dior, Marilyn Monroe in yet another polka-dot swimsuit, Brian Hyland singing “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” and then in the 1960s Yayoi Kusama, whom you already know thanks to me.

Chloe finally swings back to the origin: the polka. For some reason beyond my ken, “polkamania” apparently swept through Europe in the mid-19th century (sort of like the Black Plague, I guess, except, well, polka dotted). When that happened, she writes,

enthusiasts claimed the polka jacket, then the polka hat (neither of them spotted), and finally, the polka dot. There is only a tenuous connection between dot and dance, yet surely the two are linked — it’s possible that polka dots reflect the same regulated, short bursts of energy that inflect the polka itself.

Tenuous might be the understatement of the year. Whatever its origin, the polka dot has held sway long enough. I’m going to start a movement for renaming them flamenco dots. I begin my argument for the change by offering this comparison. Polka songs come with titles like the “Beer Barrel Polka” (“Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun — remember that one? No? Good.). Or better yet “In Heaven There Is No Beer” or “Have Another Drink on Me.” See a trend here? Flamenco songs, on the other hand, have names like “Echale Guindas al Pavo” and “Romance de Chavalillo Torero.” Do I know what these mean? Heck no but who cares? At least there’s no “En el cielo no hay cerveza” to be found anywhere. How much more convincing do you need?

If you want to weigh in on this so-not-a-debate, please do at #flamencodotsrule. And now, that’s our show for tonight. Goodbye.

Disconnected

Whenever the Comcast Internet connection goes down here in KW, which it does on occasion, I wonder if the island’s entire population is staring bewildered, like I am, at their browser screens as “what do I do now?” panic races through their brains. In casting my glance desperately about the study to fend off blankscreenophobia [paralyzing anxiety brought on by an unexpected and frightening “deadpage” appearing in front of you], my eyes fall on Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey [TWJ]: Mythic Structure for Writers and the bewilderment in my brain turns immediately to guilt. Oh, yes, think I, I’m supposed to be working on my novel, the one I wrote a 50,000-word first draft way back in July 2016 for Camp NaNoWriMo and haven’t touched since. My intention in acquiring Vogler’s book was to read it and get ideas for expanding and better structuring Zombie Alien Dad (ZAD). Looking over at TWJ, I see that the paperback now wears a book jacket, one fashioned from agglomerated dust and cat fur.
ZAD.jpg
ZAD: “Why or why have you forsaken me?”

Well, what the heck. Since I can’t dissonbrowze myself [distract through online browsing], I’m going to jump in and get started on TWJ. Here we go: Book One: Mapping the Journey, Chapter One: A Practical Guide. Vogler bases his story guide on Joseph Campbell’s classic The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The “Practical Guide” chapter opens with a quote from Willa Cather’s O Pioneers: “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they never happened before.” Next, he introduces “The Hero’s Journey (THJ),” which is less of a map and more of a 12-step story outline. “With this tool,” he promises, “you can construct a story that will be dramatic, entertaining, and psychologically true.” If you already have a draft, as I do, with the THJ “you can diagnose the problems of almost any ailing plot line, and make the corrections to bring it to its peak of performance.” Hot dog!

I won’t go into the twelve steps in detail here. I’ll just say that the journey begins with the “Ordinary World” and ends with the “Return with the Elixir.” As Vogler explains, “Most stories take the hero out of the ordinary, mundane world and into a Special World, new and alien.” First, as you might have guessed, you must establish the ordinary world. The final stage of the story provides the payoff in which the hero brings a boon or treasure, what Vogler calls the Elixir, to benefit the ordinary world. This Elixir comes in many forms. It might be knowledge, as in Dorothy returning to Kansas from Oz after learning “there’s no place like home.” Or it might be a positive change in status, as in Luke Skywalker defeating Darth Vader and bringing peace and order to the galaxy for a time. So, my task now is to create my own hero’s journey or, even more difficult I imagine, creating two parallel yet different journeys for two heroes: Will, a teenage human, and Wouylerlubro (let’s call him “Wylie”), a being from the planet Choewrluria.

As it stands, ZAD opens with this line: “It began as a school morning like any other school morning for Will Mender.” I’m already thinking about shifting things around to where these words start the book: “Will stared at the wall of shame across the hall from where he sat outside the principal’s office.” Both seem like good hooks. The first suggests that what begins as an ordinary day will turn into something not so ordinary. The second indicates that Will has done something to get himself sent to the principal’s office, something that might have to do with being shamed. This is where my journey begins. If I finish revising ZAD such that publication and monster sales and a movie deal ensue (no sense in holding back on wishful thinking), that would be heroic indeed. Wish me luck.

Well. This has been a remarkable discovery. When the Internet becomes inaccessible, the world doesn’t end and good things can happen. Who knew?

Better to Be Toasty

“It is hard to fail [difficult to accept I think this means–I have no trouble failing at all] but it is worse never having tried to succeed.” This awkwardly worded quote belongs to Teddy Roosevelt, who obviously would not get along with Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

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Yoda Schmoda!

The subject of useless endeavors comes up because yesterday various news outlets covered the grand opening of the Museum of Failure (Innovation) in Sweden. The Daily Mail, for example, trumpets this headline: “Colgate frozen lasagna, fat-free Pringles, and GREEN ketchup take pride of place in new Museum of Failure in Sweden.” The MOFI also features displays on the Apple Newton, Google Glass, Harley-Davidson Perfume, Bic for Her, and the Orbitoclast. (I’ll come back to this last one.) There’s even, and how apropos is this?, a display for the “I’m Back and You’re Fired! Trump the Game,” which the MOFI’s founder describes as a “boring version of Monopoly” that is “simplified so stupid people can play it.” The game features “T” pawns, Trump cards, and Trump money that comes only in three denominations: $10 million dollar bills, $50 million dollar bills, and $100 million dollar bills. The winner, naturally, is whoever ends up with the most money. (You can sill find TTG on Amazon should you suddenly have an irrational desire to walk in his Gucci loafers.)

The MOFI adopts a sunny attitude toward such flops, preaching that “learning is the only way to turn failure into success.” The website’s “About” section tells us that the museum is “a collection of interesting innovation failures” and “every item provides unique insight into the risky business of innovation.” As part of its “learn from losing, loser” mission, the MOFI is brainstorming events such as “a tasting of failed brews from regional microbreweries” and “fuck-up-night talks.”

Now, about that Orbitoclast. This is a surgical instrument invented in 1948 for performing frontal lobotomies, also called leucotomies. The instrument (cringe warning here!) was basically an ice pick with some gradation markings on it. Its main claim to fame was that it was sturdier than previous versions, which had an annoying habit of breaking off while still lodged in the brain. Believe it or not, the originator of this gruesome procedure won a Nobel Prize in Medicine for it. Not long after, however, the practice, the leading practitioner, and the instrument, as one author puts it, “withered into oblivion.”

But enough about the dark side of failure. TR also wrote that a person who fails “at least fails while daring greatly, so that his [or her] place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Despite the seeming triple negative there, I find these words comforting. I may have a defeat/victory scorecard that leans heavily toward the downside, but my soul will be forever toasty. Oddly, this makes me feel more self-confident, more of a WINNER, someone who could, dare I say it?. triumph at Trump the Game. This, would, of course, be HUGE, not that I would ever tell anyone. I will say this, however. Should you catch me with a certain familiar smirk on my face, you’ll know why. And NO, it’s not because I somehow managed to self-orbitoclasticize myself. Shame on you for even having such a thought!

Forrest Bill

“Life is like a box of chocolates.” If this line sounds familiar, it’s because it’s been repeated endlessly since Forrest Gump uttered it at the beginning of his self-titled fiopic [fictional film biography]. If you visit Chippewa Square in Savannah, Georgia, you can even see (we did) and sit on (don’t think we did) a replica of the bench from which he made this pronouncement.

Film poster with an all-white background and a park bench (facing away from the viewer) near the bottom. A man wearing a white suit is sitting on the right side of the bench and is looking to his left while resting his hands on both sides of him on the bench. A suitcase is sitting on the ground, and the man is wearing tennis shoes. At the top left of the image is the film's tagline and title and at the bottom is the release date and production credits.
ACK!*

My go-to information source Wikipedia describes Forrest as “a slow-witted but kind-hearted, good-natured and athletically prodigious man from Alabama, who witnesses, and in some cases influences, some of the defining events of the latter half of the 20th century in the United States.” Even though most of his exploits occurred serendipitously, Forrest has been immortalized for his adventures and a major proportion of the world’s population likely knows about them.

They may not know, however, of the similar experience of Bill the Cat as chronicled in Berkeley Breathed’s 2016 The Bill the Cat Story (BCS). Bill is a Bloom County regular, and BCS is his origin story. To summarize not-so-briefly, a young boy named Milo decides he needs a pet and adopts Bill from the Pedigree Schmedigree Animal Shelter. Milo has Bill for “exactly one minute and a half” before his pet is catnapped and shipped to the North Pole. Before the nappers get away, though, Opus the penguin catches up to them, manages to reach into Bill’s FedEx box, and dresses him in a pair of smiley-face jockey shorts to keep the cat warm.

Up north, Bill becomes a North Pole sled cat. From there, he somehow makes it to Africa and becomes the leading herder (literally) for Edna’s Elephant Herding service. Next up, Bill appears somewhere in Asia, finding “a family that seemed to love him very, very much.” In fact they idolize him, worship him, and build monuments in his likeness as Bill enjoys “plenty of nap time, peeled grapes, and foot massages on Tuesday.”

Nothing good lasts forever, of course, and Bill gets catnapped again by ravenous space pie-rats looking for a snack. The rats are about to pietize Bill when they realize they have a celebrity on board. Somehow they mistake Bill for another orange cat, Garfield, and they feel obligated to return Bill to his rightful owner, guided by the instructions on his jockey shorts that say “Return to Opus.” Opus happens to be lounging at that moment on one of the gargoyles atop the Chrysler Building in New York City. Well, to speed forward to our happy ending, Opus returns Bill to Bloom County and reunites him joyously with Milo.

Although the only thing Bill ever says is ACK!, I’m sure if he could speak humango [the lingo of humans], he would, like Forrest, share the wisdom he gained from his travels and travails despite having failed to witness or influence any century-defining events. “Life,” he would say if he happened to be sitting on a bench next to you, “is like a tub of Temptations MixUps.” Then he would tell you why (“ACK!”) and offer you one (“ACK!”). If it were me sitting there, I wouldn’t know which treat to wish for: would it be Catnip Fever or Surfer’s Delight? I just can’t decide.


* Theatrical poster for Forrest Gump, Copyright © 1994 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. Fair use.

Surely We’re All Mad People

“Surely we’re all mad people, and they whom we think are, are not.” This line from Thomas Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy (TRT) appears on the title page of Joe Orton’s play What the Butler Saw.

Sundry times acted indeed.

TRT was first performed in 1606 and then published in 1607. It has been described as a subversive black comedy. Orton’s play is one also, as are his other works Loot and Entertaining Mr. Sloane. Some examples of SBCs in film are Nurse Betty, Pink Flamingos, They Live, Life of Brian, and The Great Dictator.

So what, you may wonder, is an SBC? Well, let’s break it down. “Subversive” is an adjective meaning “tending to subvert: having a tendency to overthrow, upset, or destroy.” Following the lexographic trail, “subvert” means, among other definitions, “to bring to nothing, destroy, or greatly impair the existence, sovereignty, influence, wholeness of, especially by insidious undermining.”

“Black comedy” is defined as “comedy that employs black humor.” Going further down this rabbit hole, “black humor” is “humor marked by the use of morbid, ironic, grotesquely comic episodes.” And “black” in this context refers to the quality of being “outrageously wicked: deserving unmitigated condemnation.” As an example of all this, in TRT, the lead character Vindice disguises himself as a panderer (a “pandar” in the play) to get closer to the Duke, who poisoned Vindice’s wife on their wedding day because she would not submit to his, the Duke’s, lustful advances. On the way to getting his revenge, Vindice tries to pimp his sister, which fails, and then convinces his mother to sell her, the sister, for gold. From there, he goes on to get various people close to the Duke executed and ends by covering his dead wife’s skull in poison, disguising the skull (somehow) as a living woman, and convincing the perpetumescent [always horny] Duke to kiss the skull. Goodbye, Duke.

So why this topic now? Last night on The Daily Show Trevor Noah spoke about the woman arrested yesterday for leaking NSA documents on Russian hacking of the 2016 election. With a look of incredulity, he announced that the woman’s name was Reality Winner and then asks “How is this real life? Did God quit his day job to make a web series?” He’s definitely on to something. We must have fallen through a rift in the time-space continuum and landed in our own SBC version of House of Cards. Either that or we surely are all mad, which means, of course, “disordered in mind” or, better yet, “completely unrestrained by reason or judgment.” We all know where this started. Unfortunately, it seems to be spreading exponentially. This might make the Republicans happy since it proves their trickle-down theory of wackonomics really works. Then again, it might not.

Strange and Admirable

So you’ve probably seen or are going to see the Wonder Woman movie just out in theaters (93% on Rotten Tomatoes; who wouldn’t?). If you have viewed the movie, read the comics, or survived the 1970s TV show, you know that Diana Prince is an Amazon from the fictional island of Themyscira and that the queen of the Amazons and Diana’s mother is Hippolyta. But you may not remember or know that Hippolyta preceded Diana in being a famous literary creation and star (hint: in books and on stage originally, not the screen).

What a time to leave my Golden Lasso at home!*

Backing up for a little history now, the Amazons came into being in Greek mythology as the daughters of Ares, the god of war, and a wood nymph. Instead of a made-up island, they lived in the similarly named Themiscrya, a town on the banks of the Thermodon River somewhere in what is now Turkey. According to myth, no sexual encounters were allowed in Amazon country, so to keep their race from dying out, the Amazons traveled each year to visit a neighboring tribe for a one-night stand of epic proportions (well, okay, it was two months of consecutive epic one-night stands and we will eschew talking about what happens to any male offspring).

Diana’s mum Hippolyta first gained notice in the myths about Heracles (Hercules, to you probably). Obtaining Hippolyta’s girdle (belt) was Herc’s ninth labor out of the famous twelve tasks he completed as penance for going mad and killing his family. Hipp was all set to give Herc the belt but complications ensued, as they always did when the Greek gods got involved, and he gets angry, kills Hipp, and takes the belt. (Lesson: Do not, under any circumstances, PO Herc.)

Next up for a wondrously revived Hipp is Theseus. In some versions of that myth, Theseus takes Hipp back to Athens and marries her; in others, he kills her (what is it with those ancient Greek heroes?) or she is accidentally killed by another Amazon or her sister (sheesh: this is like trying to keep up with the Yorks and Tudors). Shakespeare chose the happy ending and Hippolyta and Theseus get married at the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Along the way, Hipp’s role is basically to declare her love for Theseus, observe how “strange and admirable” those crazy Athenians are, and forcefully correct Theseus when he doubts the wacky tale told by Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius, and Helena.

So one could assert that Patty Jenkins was treading in Will’s footsteps in portraying a strong, fierce, compassionate, empathetic, vulnerable female character when she created the 2017 Wonder Woman. Whatever the case, kudos to both and an important lesson for everyone, but mostly us men, to learn perhaps: as Hippolyta cautions in the new film, “Be careful in the world of men, Diana, they do not deserve you.”


* Image: Hercules Obtaining the Girdle of Hyppolita by Nikolaus Knüpfer. Public Domain.

Time Marches On…in Some Cases

In 1927, a British astronomer by the name of Arthur Eddington developed the concept of the Arrow of Time or Time’s Arrow. (Should you want a more elegant term, try the French version: la fleche du temps.) In Time Travel, James Gleick explains that Eddington was responding to developments in physics at the microscopic level that brought the directionality of time into question. If time were perfectly symmetrical, Wikipedia tells us, then a video of real events would look realistic when played backwards or forwards. A ball falling up, for example, would seem as natural as a ball falling down. Put another way, whatever is done can be undone perfectly by reversing time.

I shot an arrow into the future and…*

While this might be occur at the microscopic level (molecular, atomic, subatomic, and quantum), it does not occur at the macroscopic level, that is, the world we live in and perceive. What stops it from happening is the second law of thermodynamics, which tells us that the total entropy of an isolated system (our universe in this case) can only increase over time. In other words, it’s arrow only goes in one direction.

Eddington seems to suggest that Time’s Arrow is more a philosophical concept than an observable phenomenon because, except for entropy, “it makes no appearance in science.” Still, he writes, “it is vividly recognized by our consciousness” and “it is equally insisted upon by our reasoning faculty, which tells us that a reversal of the arrow would render the external world nonsensical.”

Entropy is a measure of disorder (chaos). Pour a cup of water into the ocean, for example, and the “ordered” molecules of that water mix increasingly randomly with the water in the ocean so that it becomes impossible to dip your cup into the ocean and recover the exact water you poured into it. “A random element,” Eddington wrote, “brings the irrevocable into the world.” Gleick translates this: “Without randomness, the clocks could run backward.”

In similar fashion, energy cannot be destroyed but it can dissipate randomly to the point where it loses its ability to do work, that is, the motion energy makes possible stops. This is where our universe (and we along with it) is headed and, like Eddington’s arrow, it cannot be reversed. At the end of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, his time traveler reaches this point, watching all light vanishing into darkness and experiencing a cold that “smote” the marrow of his bones.

Wells’ vision seems appropriate because another term for total entropy, the point where motion stops, is “the heat death of the universe.” This is also called, for obvious reasons, the Big Chill or the Big Freeze or the Big Rip. When it happens, the universe will enter what physicists call the Dark Era, Given that the Big Chill is what we have to look forward to, albeit in an unimaginably distant future, perhaps we need to rethink our efforts to reverse global warming. Just saying.


* Arthur Stanly Eddington. Public Domain.

What Are the Odds?

If you’re lacking scary things to ponder these days, here’s something that might fill the gap: “If every infinite outcome were equally likely, we’d never come to be.” This obtuse statement sounds ominous, perhaps more so because I don’t have a clue as to what it means. It serves as the subtitle for Ethan Siegel’s article “The odds of your unlikely existence were not infinitely small.” My first reaction to this seemingly more optimistic pronouncement was “Oh! Good!” and then a moment later “Huh?”

The Fickle Fingers of Fate?*

Beginning with the sperm/egg meetup, Siegel lists the “great many unlikely events [that] needed to unfold in exactly the way they did” for you, me, everyone, and everything to exist. On the macro side, these include the Earth forming into a habitable planet, the laws of physics being the, well, laws of physics, and the Universe unfolding “in such a way to make this all possible.”

It may seem to many (count me in) that we are here purely by chance and that the odds of being here exceeded those for winning the next Powerball lottery (one in 292 million or so in case you wanted a good reason not to play) by several orders of magnitude. Not so, says Siegel:

Yet there’s one thing we can be sure of in this entire series of unlikely events, occurring one after the other: nothing that occurred at any point had an infinitesimal likelihood.

The series he mentions starts small with your (my) ancestral DNA mutating and meiosis cross-overing in just the right way and then balloons astronomically (pun intended) to our Universe coming into existence “out of the great abyss of nothingness that came before.” All of these, he says reassuringly, “must have had finite odds of occurring.”

We know this because of Bayes’ Theorem, which says this:

The probability that A is true if B is given is equal to the probability that B is true if A is given, multiplied by the probability that A is true (independent of B) and divided by the probability that B is true (independent of A).

To put that into terms we have a chance (probably still infinitesimal for me) of understanding, Siegel provides the example of the dice pictured above: “Rolling five ‘sixes’ in a single dice roll of five dice is an unlikely outcome, which will only happen one out of 7,776 rolls, on average, but given an infinite number of rolls, you’d get an infinite number of results like this.”


Got it? Me, neither. I think I can boil this down to my intellectual level (rock bottom), however. It seems like Siegel is saying that whenever you think the things you wish for will never happen, the odds of them coming about are much better than you might think. So…I guess we should buy that Powerball ticket after all.

*Image credit: Max Pixel. Public Domain.

The Faster I Go, the Slower I Get

Few things in life are constant. One of them, or so I thought, is the speed of light (186,000 miles per second in a vacuum). The uncertainty about light speed gets raised in “Understanding the Speed of Light, How Much Do We Know?” by Ryan Young. Young notes that the speed of light might be affected by something called “quantum vacuum fluctuations,” which is not, as I initially thought, what happens to my Hoover whenever there’s a power surge.

The distance from the Sun to the Earth is shown as 150 million kilometers, an approximate average. Sizes to scale.
Light travel time: 8 minutes, 17 seconds on average or instantaneous?

No, QVFs, in theory, occur because outer space is not empty but packed with particles that constantly alternate between existing and not existing–now you see me, etc. If so, if these particles happen to be in their existing state when light passes through, they could slow it down. This might seem weird or even impossible, but so was the idea that light is simultaneously or alternatingly, I forget which, a wave and a beam of particles.

Young emphasizes that QVFs are just an idea that sprang from some physicist’s fevered brain, which is somewhat reassuring for those of us who crave stability in whatever form it may come. He also mentions Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which tells us that “time gets slower the closer you get to the speed of light, stops when you reach the speed of light, and would go backward if you were to exceed the speed of light.”

Along with his text, Young includes a helpful video titled “Why Is the Speed of Light the Speed of Light?” from a source called Answers from Joe (not the plumber I assume). Joe informs us that the speed of light is actually a snail’s pace from the universe’s perspective. It takes, after all, 45 minutes for it to get from the sun to Jupiter. “Can’t it go any faster?” his audience asks. “No,” Joe says. “Why not?” “Because Einstein says so.” In fact, anything with mass, i.e., us, gets heavier and heavier as it moves faster and faster and so impedes itself from reaching the speed of light or going beyond it. Light has no mass and, ipso facto, can travel at, well, its speed. Since light travels at the speed of light, time stops for it. So the journey to Jupiter that supposedly takes 45 minutes at the speed of light takes no time at all from the light’s point of view. Whoa.

There are lessons to be learned from all of this. First, if you want to get somewhere or do something faster, reduce your speed because, to steal from Lewis Carroll, “the sloweder you go, the aheader you get.” Second, going slower makes you weigh less. Now that seems a win-win of colossal proportions. The nagging questions re the latter effect, however, are if you don’t move at all, would you weigh nothing, and if you weigh nothing, would you cease to exist? Intrepid adventurer that I am, I will refrain from all activity and see what happens. If you never hear from me again (no cheers, please), consider the “cease to exist” question answered.

Now? There Is No Now. Only Then.

Thought to ponder, from John Banville’s novel ancient light:

Even here, at this table, the light that is the image of my eyes takes time, a tiny time, infinitesimal, yet time, to reach your eyes, and so it is that everywhere we look, everywhere, we are looking into the past.

If you’re thinking “he [me] must be reading that Time Travel book again,” you’d be right. If you are exceedingly discerning and/or prescient, you might even be thinking “now he’s going to pretend he understands Einstein’s special theory of relativity.” Once again, correctomundo. Well, sort of.

Incomprehensible scientific graphic included because, well,
I needed a visual. Hey, it does mention space and time at least.*

The STR, put extremely briefly, defines the relationship between space and time. Rather than try and fail to explain this myself (as if I could), I bow to the Dummies website. The STR “created a fundamental link between space and time…. If you move fast enough through space, the observations that you make about space and time differ somewhat from the observations of other people, who are moving at different speeds.” This effect is known as time dilation, “when the time moving very quickly appears to pass slower than on earth” (see Interstellar). Put even more simply by the HowStuffWorks guy, “Time is not a physical thing. Time is an experience, and my time is not your time.”

It wasn’t long after Einstein put out the STR that “space” and “time” became “space-time” or, to use one of Doctor Who’s favorite phrases, the “space-time continuum.” As the song goes, you can’t have one without the other. Our perception of reality, whatever that is, depends on this.

So where am I? Back to square one I guess. Even though our world can only function now, thanks initially to railroads and the telegraph, due to time being standardized, universalized, synchronized, or whatever, we all experience time differently. We all travel through space at different speeds. Our senses and cognition are perpetually catching up to what has already happened.

That last statement prompts a revelation of sorts. Everyone on earth is speaking or writing incorrectly when they use the present tense because, well, there is no present that we can perceive. To be accurate, we need to eliminate the now in our interactions. This will take some adaptation, changing, for example, greetings like “how are you doing?” to “how were you doing?” when you meet, sorry, met someone you know, er, knew on the street. Sounds doable, don’t you think? Wait, what am/was I saying? It’s already done.

* Illustration of a light cone [whatever the heck that is]. Public Domain.