Jan 9, 2020 • 8M

Reading Notes #4

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Annie Mueller
Everything I say is about you. ☠️Sweary☠️
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“Within a perceived reality, it is the responsibility of each person to choose their destinations as well as the pathways and pace involved in reaching those destinations. Ultimately, we create our own universe.”

Let’s talk about time. 

Rather, let’s talk about a book that’s about time: Slipstream Time Hacking by Benjamin P. Hardy which, surprisingly, is not a sci-fi novel.

So it’s been a few years now since Einstein came along and said, “Uh, hey guys, not to disturb anyone, but everything you think you know about reality is wrooong.” And he gave us the theory of relativity, which has had enormous far-reaching effects on everything.

Except, perhaps, on the way we think of time. 

I mean, in a theoretical, researchy, lab-coat-wearing way, we think of time differently. But in an everyday, mundane, calendar-managing way, we… don’t.

We still view time as this linear, fixed thing, this progression of past to present to future that is unalterable and unavoidable. We think of and interact with time in a very Newtonian way: 

“According to Newton, time is absolute and unchangeable in and of itself. It simply flows unvaryingly, independent of any observable changes. …his theories centered time and space as the building blocks of the universe. Time was universal, unchangeable, and linear.” 

And, for the most part, that’s how we deal with time: Oh here’s my calendar. I’ve got 7 days in a week. They come one after another. I’ve got 52 weeks in a year. I’ve got 24 hours in a day. I’ve got 60 minutes in an hour. I have to cram as much fun and meaning and good stuff as possible into this fixed, absolute amount of time.

We try to “manage time” by rearranging and reconfiguring the activities we “put into” our time. Mostly, we end up frustrated and never have quite enough time for the things we want to do. 

Here comes Einstein to make everything weird: 

“Rather than time being the absolute and unchanging force as previous theorists assumed, Einstein rendered light-speed constancy as the unchanging backdrop to his theories. Light is the framework of the universe and the fundamental reality. As a result, his theory recognizes that time and space actually fluctuate based on varying perspectives.” 

Okay, whatever, blah blah blah. What does this actually have to do with me, my hours in my days, my weeks in my year, my experience of time in my life? 

Well, maybe nothing. Maybe a whole fucking lot, my friend. 

“According to Einstein’s theory… as an object increases the rate at which it travels in space, time simultaneously slows down. This constitutes an inverse relationship between space and time—the faster an object travels through space, the slower its progress in time. If an object could travel at the speed of light, time would stand still.” 

So if WE, hypothetically, can speed up our experience, or movement, in life (space?), then we can slow down our experience, or movement, through time. 

As the author puts it, 

“To move fast is to have all the time in the world.” 

How to move fast

Time theory is interesting (and confusing) but how do we move fast and, as a result, enjoy more time (or a slower experience of time)? 

“Certain people are moving so fast that they can arrive at destinations in moments that would take most of us decades.”

Let’s figure out how to be those certain people. Or at least, how to start trying.

1. We need to know what matters to us

Turns out that a lot of what makes time rush by (or wastes our time) is our indecision about what we want to do with time. That indecision is really about how we want to live, who we are and who we want to become, what we want to make of our lives… You know, little questions like that. 

“Because we do not know what we want or where we are headed, we jump at every opportunity that comes our way—filling our time and speeding up our lives. In contrast, if we know what we want and align our life to what matters most, to reality, time will slow down. All of those things we have spent our life chasing are nothing more than a distraction from what matters most…the closer we get to reality, our authentic self and desires, the slower time goes.” 

The key is figuring out what matters to us, not what matters to anyone else. That means comparing doesn’t help. Following pre-written paths, or doing things just because they’re supposed to be done: it doesn’t work.

We have to set our own standards. We have to come up with our own answers. And I think we do so by trying, by doing things, not by theorizing.

There’s only so much that introspection and planning and analyzing can do (I can’t believe I’m saying that). We can be really good at those things and still be way off. The map is not the territory. The plan is not the experience. Until we get into the territory, start having the experience, we don’t know what it’s like. 

2. We have to put determinism on the shelf

By determinism, I mean the belief that what has already happened limits (or controls, or predetermines) what is going to happen. It’s a cause-and-effect kind of thing. Seems very logical. It definitely seems like the way the universe works. 

“Newtonian time’s most fatal flaw is determinism—the present is determined by the past. From a Newtonian perspective, time is sequential, like the falling of dominoes. Each domino is determined by the movement of the one before and determines the action of the one following. The dominoes never get to choose to behave differently or stop the cycle.”

We may have a loose idea of determinism—as in, the past has determined an array of options before you, and the one you choose now will determine the array of options you have in the future. You still get to choose amongst the options.

Or we may have a fairly set, narrow idea of determinism—something more like Destiny or Fate, this is the path you must walk, the sense that this is the way things must be, that everything is working out (or not) as it has to. 

There’s some beauty in determinism, and a lovely kind of acceptance. Maybe even peace. It’s very Zen. But there’s also this inherent passivity, a kind of giving-up, a complete lack of personal responsibility, so fuck that shit. No thanks. You can have the linear universe; it sucks. I’ll take the chaotic, confusing, relativistic one that is scary as shit but allows for absolutely anything to happen.

“According to non-linear time, the past, present, and future all simultaneously and holistically exist in one. By changing the present, the past can be reshaped and the future altered. The distinguishing of the past, present, and future, according to Einstein, is simply an illusion of consciousness.” 

So where does that leave us? 

Well, it leaves us with about 75% of this book undiscussed. The rest is mostly about how to put these ideas into action: how to think of, and treat time, as something fluid, something we can manipulate and influence, something that changes according to how we choose to live. 

I’m not adept at understanding or explaining timey-wimey science-y stuff. I just know there’s something about taking responsibility—radical responsibility that—well, that changes all the options. Responsibility reveals new options.

Maybe determinism is real. Maybe the idea of relative time, and the subsequent change in how we “manage” our time, or move through it, is all just Destiny. I don’t know. I do know that the more responsibility I take, the more freedom I experience. So a concept of time that supports taking responsibility for literally everything is the one I’m gonna go with. 

“In a single moment, a person can choose to change everything. Change doesn’t have to take a long time, it happens the instant we decide. In a non-linear and relative world, each person is empowered to change the course and meaning of their life completely.” 

  • More reading notes here.

  • Last letter here (all about insecurity! Whee!)

  • A song about time here.

  • That’s all I’ve got.

    Go slipstream-time-hack something!