Friday, April 16, 2010

On Time...

Last night, I went to the Ad Hoc Vox lecture, On Time, a debate about the nature of time. These lectures take place every two months, in a new gallery each time, and cover a wide array of art-related topics. If you live in NY, check it out

As I was exiting the lecture, I came across a girl outside who was waiving her arms around dramatically and indignantly, smoking. "This did nothing to clarify my understanding of time." she complained, loudly, as her eyes scanned the front of the gallery to see if she had an audience to share in her suffering. I found this very funny, and thought that it was a perfect way to end the lecture.

During the Q & A, I made a joke about how the entire panel seemed to agree that all knowledge is provisional and subject to change. They chuckled, and my bosom swelled with happiness and pleasure. Although the panel consisted of so many divergent disciplines; physicists, science writers, a literary writer, and a women's studies expert, there seemed to be a lot of overlap in things which they all agreed on, mainly the limitations of human understanding. I appreciated it when Sean Carroll, one of the scientists, acknowledged that physicists are just as irrational as any other group of people. David Z Albert, brought up Nietzsche and the idea that the most accurate "truths" are usually metaphorical. I enjoyed how beautifully and poetically these physicists spoke, David in particular, who said that one of the tragedies of language is that each word dies for the next word to follow. Dan Falk, the writer of In Search of Time, admitted feeling pathos, knowing as an individual, that time keeps marching on. Granted, I'm butchering what he said, for he did say more eloquently than that.

It was nice to be shaken out of my solipsistic, belly-button gazing, default setting. There were quite a few things brought up which I had never known or thought about. Like the fact that Newtonian physics, the physics still being taught in high school has been proven to be wrong. I was unaware of physicists being fascinated by why time moves forward and not backward. Sean discussed the arrow of time, the fact that the past always leads to the present. Stephanie Claire, the women's studies expert talked about a cross-cultural understanding of time and how the past is not past for certain groups of Indigenous people for whom the past is still materially present. Dan also mentioned Australian dream time, which I learned about years ago, freshman year of undergrad. From what I remember, Aborigines do not distinguish between dream time and waking time.

I'll definitely check out In Search of Time, a book that I've been recommended on Amazon before. I'm especially interested in reading Sean Carroll's book From Eternity to Here, because I enjoyed the clarity and simplicity of the words he used to describe complex subjects, and I felt like I related to him in the way that he spoke and the humility with which he approaches life.

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