The Paradox of Now (If “Now” Truly Exists)

It all seems so straightforward, so matter-of-fact.

We recently witnessed the passing of the torch from 2015 to 2016.  Time to put away the old year and venture forth into the new, complete with resolutions, optimism, goals, and hopes.  The ongoing passage of time, the catalog of days and weeks and months, would appear to be an irrefutable, self-evident, obvious truth,  The clock ticks, we grow older, hopefully wiser, and nothing stands still.



But is it really so obvious?  Is it really the kind of thing we can disregard as a fact so unchangeable, so plain, it’s not even worth thinking about or discussing?

Ar first blush, yes.  We can glance at our calendars, our schedules, our itineraries, and know, unequivocally, that we have this time thing figured out.  It is what it is, as they say.



Or maybe not.


One of the themes in The Eye-Dancers has to do with the way we perceive reality.  Can dreams and “real life” truly be separated by a hard, Maginot-like line of demarcation?  Or are there, possibly, gaps along the edges, where the two dimensions intersect and become enmeshed?



Is the life we know, here, now, on this earth, really the only life we live?  Or are there alternate versions, parallel worlds, going on beside us, without our even knowing it?



Nearly midway through The Eye-Dancers, Marc Kuslanski, the class science wiz, explains how he understands all of this . . .

“Everything in existence fits together,” he says.  “The smallest subatomic particle, the worst hurricane, the largest whale, the layers upon layers of reality.  All of it.  And what quantum mechanics tells us is–there are infinitely multiple versions of each of us.  Infinitely multiple versions of our own earth.  You couldn’t even begin to count them all.”



Could it be possible that time works in a similar way?


Then again, what is time, exactly?  Is it nothing more than our means of measuring it, slicing it up like so much fruit, into bite-sized pieces?  Can it really be tamed in such a systemized, linear fashion?



We hear it often:  “Don’t dwell on the past.  The past is over and done.  Don’t live too much for tomorrow.  Tomorrow may never arrive.  And, even if it does, what you do right now, in this moment, will directly affect what happens in the future anyway.  Therefore, focus only on the now.  Live in the moment, firmly where your feet are planted.”



Sound advice!  But let’s delve a little deeper.

If we ask the question, “What is time?” then it seems to follow we must also ask, “What is ‘now’?”  On the surface, the answer seems so elementary, as a certain Victorian detective might say, the question itself appears almost rhetorical.  Because, of course, “now” is “now”!  It can be nothing else.  Right now, I am keying these words into this post (which, hopefully, you are not regretting reading!).  There.  I just keyed in this sentence.  Now.



But wait.  Can’t we slice “now” up even further?  I am keying in this word, this letter, this space . . .  You are reading these words, one at a time.  Which of these is “now”?  Should it be quantified by the minute?  The second?  The millisecond?  The nanosecond?  How precise do we need to be?  This is far from a trivial question.  How we measure “now” greatly affects our perception of it.



If we define the now as a minute in time–perhaps we have something to work with.  A minute isn’t long, but long enough to perform many things, think thoughts, dream dreams.  Living in the now, in this case, seems attainable.



But what if we define “now” as a moment, a breath, a blink of an eye, a beat of the heart, here and gone so fast that by the time it disappears, the next moment arrives, and then the next and the next and the next, one to another merging into a living, continuous, moving thing with no beginning and no end.



If we view “now” like this, time is expanded, and we view it as an eternal, something that cannot really be measured and itemized and saved.  If “now” operates more like a wave than a particle, as it were, more like whitewater rapids than a still, tranquil pond, then what is this term we call time?



“The present is the ever-moving shadow that divides yesterday from tomorrow,” Frank Lloyd Wright once said.

William Faulkner added, “Clocks slay time . . . time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.”

Where does that leave us?  Are we, like Martin Sloan in the classic Twilight Zone episode “Walking Distance,” “trying to go home again,” listening for “the distant music of a calliope, and hear[ing] the voices and the laughter of the people and the places of [our] past”?



Maybe time, as we know it, live it, define it, conceive of it, is an illusion. Maybe “now,” as opposed to something we can take hold of and posses, is, in actuality, a wisp, a billow of smoke rising against a blue winter sky, a flickering flame constantly in motion, never resting, never stationary.  Tomorrow’s dreams and hopes are, in an eye-blink, yesterday’s forgotten memories, tucked away in some vaulted corner of the mind.



It is, by necessity perhaps, a mystery.

Centuries ago, Augustine may have said it best:  “What then is time?  If no one asks me, I know what it is.  If I wish to explain it to him who asks. I do not know.”



Thanks so much for reading!


31 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sue Dreamwalker
    Jan 14, 2016 @ 15:11:44

    Wonderful post Mike.. May each of your NOW moments be as creative as the last..
    Blessings for more wonderful moments in 2016.. and way way beyond..
    Hugs Sue


  2. sherazade
    Jan 14, 2016 @ 15:55:59

    “Adesso” è dato dalla nostra percezione di viverlo che può superare il confine tra “reale”e” sogno”!
    Difficile la risposta sui la possibilità di mondi paralleli.


  3. lovepages77
    Jan 14, 2016 @ 16:13:37

    Very nicely put, wrote a poem about time aswell very recently and believe our views on the subject are very similar, you ofcourse explain it impeccably! 🙂 Check it out if you want!


  4. Carol Balawyder
    Jan 14, 2016 @ 16:55:02

    Interesting post. May you enjoy every one of your 2016 moments.


  5. Patrice
    Jan 14, 2016 @ 17:22:42

    Yeah! Well said!!! So much to think about, to realize our own thoughts on the word ‘Time’


  6. Donna Gwinnell Lambo-Weidner
    Jan 14, 2016 @ 23:54:47

    A timely post, Mike. Well done. Two thumbs-up!


  7. Julie Cacher
    Jan 15, 2016 @ 04:34:03

    Love this! But in my mind, time is merely a tool we’ve created. These days I strive to live in the moment with all the peripherals stripped away..even if it’s only briefly, it’s heaven. My inspiration had been Eckhart Tolle. Btw, I love your thoughts on a parallel universe. But my first goal is to strip away time and feel the moments. Happy New Year Mike!


    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jan 16, 2016 @ 22:14:20

      Thanks so much, Julie! And I agree–I think time, and especially the way we tend to perceive it, is in fact a human-made creation. It’s definitely an interesting topic to think about.:) Always great hearing from you!


  8. Ste J
    Jan 16, 2016 @ 11:15:12

    It was high time somebody did a post like this!


  9. Stephanae V. McCoy
    Jan 16, 2016 @ 22:44:14

    In trying to live in the moment I’ve gotten myself so stressed thinking about it and not wanting to waste the moment that by the time I was done…well, the moment was gone and I was a frazzled mess. Dwelling on the passage of time takes away from the enjoyment so I consciously try not to unconsciously think about it.


  10. reocochran
    Jan 17, 2016 @ 00:00:53

    Mike, I have always respected my Dad asking various experts, scientists and friends, “How big is your God?” He thought anything was possible, including so many things that he worked on at NASA. After being in the Ancient Astronaut Society with Erich Van Daniken, Carl Sagan, and others who imagined being visited by outer space aliens, I laugh when people don’t believe in all our (and God’s) limitless possibilities.


  11. imaginenewdesigns12
    Jan 17, 2016 @ 04:38:12

    Thank you for liking “Return.” Your thought-provoking post brought to mind an essay I wrote on time when I was in college. My English teacher did not agree with me when I wrote that time was a man-made illusion. He pointed out that his graying hair was evidence that time was real. He gave some other “proof” too, but I can’t remember what that proof was. I was not really convinced by his arguments. I am glad to come across someone who is open to a more wider perspective of time. Perhaps the time we perceive now is just one type of time. Time could exist on other levels that we simply do not have the capacity to comprehend.


  12. penneyvanderbilt
    Jan 21, 2016 @ 18:25:49

    Reblogged this on Ancien Hippie.


  13. noellevignola
    Feb 13, 2016 @ 23:46:20

    Loved this piece. Just loved it.


  14. Anna Waldherr
    Jul 03, 2016 @ 06:40:26

    Someone who reads Augustine!? Now there’s a real find. 🙂


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