The Horror of Perception

I was reading Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe last night….

You know, before we go on let’s spend a little time there. That book is about string theory, so in the first sentence of this post I’m pretty much laying it out there that I’m a better person than you are. While you get drunk and watch old episodes of Lost I am expanding my mind. I can’t understand why you’d read something like this, a post so clearly designed to make me feel better at your expense.

Anyway, in that book, the author lays out some pretty mind-fucking statements about reality and perception courtesy of Einstein at some level, though I suppose courtesy of the Universe at the core.einstein

Overly summarized, in one section Greene talks about some of Einstein’s theories on relativity, and how different observers, based on their relative positions to each other, can observe entirely different physical events.

He takes the case of two people seated on two opposite ends of a closed train car moving at a constant speed with a light bulb in between them. One person is facing forward in the train, the other facing back. If that bulb is turned on, because light always travels at the same speed, each person in the train car sees the light at exactly the same time. Seems right.

BUT (and here is where you’ll want a cocktail), for an observer watching from a train platform as the train zooms by, because the light races out from the light bulb at a constant speed of 186,000 miles per second or so, and because the person at the back of the train car is moving along the tracks towards where the bulb first starts shining, from the perspective of the observer on the platform the person in the back of the train will ‘hit’ (or see) the light first.

In Green’s story, he talks about the two people signing a treaty at the same time. For the sake of not totally plagiarizing, imagine the people on the train clap their hands exactly when they see the light.

For anyone on the car, they would say both people watching the bulb clapped at exactly the same time.

For anyone on the platform, they would say the guy in the back of the train clapped first.

Time isn’t fixed.

History isn’t fixed.

As a result, my bowels aren’t fixed.

I spend some much of my life worries about future perceptions. I worry about things like:

  1. Will I get sick? (not because I fear being sick, but I have seen too many families struggle with sickness)
  2. Am I financially at risk?
  3. Did I achieve enough?
  4. Did I experience enough?
  5. Did I laugh enough?
  6. Will the kids be okay?
  7. What happens if X, Y or Z and then Y, Z, or X

It strikes me as ludicrous that I spend so much energy worrying about a future and future events that, even when or even if they happen, I can’t even confidently say happened the way I think they did.

I lost my job? According to another observer, that actually happened after I got a new one. In fact, I quit my job because I had the new one (obviously….a lazy bastard like I am can’t work two jobs!)

Time isn’t fixed. Maybe my worrying heart can become unfixed too.

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