The Image of Eternity: Roots of Time in the Physical World

The Image of Eternity: Roots of Time in the Physical World

The Image of Eternity: Roots of Time in the Physical World

The Image of Eternity: Roots of Time in the Physical World

Excerpt

Time is reckoned a tricky subject, elusive precisely because its nature is to elude. We live in an instant: the instant is gone. What is it that has gone? Where did it go? The experience of time is hard to discuss in rational language; we use metaphors to deal with it and end by taking them for literal fact. Yet natural scientists take account of time in an objective fashion. They measure the time of physical processes and represent these measurements by symbol and number in equations that state the laws of the universe. Under the even light of reason it is difficult to see the shadows that troubled us a moment ago.

This book was written in the belief that science and metaphors are talking about the same things in different terms and that each can help explain the other. Part of the pleasure in writing it has been the discovery that even before there was any science in the modern sense, thinkers of the past were contributing to the synthesis that is possible today.

My main concern has been to show how the temporal flow of the universe runs through us all. The old people expressed this thought in myth. Modern cosmology, an imaginative construction which itself perhaps deserves the name of myth, furnishes another way to say the same thing. We are linked with the cosmos, body and mind, we are made of its substance and obey its laws, yet the universe that is an object of our understanding is, in a sense that I will try to explain, the creation of human minds. We describe the universe within the same context as we describe our own actions when we contemplate them objectively: extended in time--past, present, and future. But there is another mode in which we experience time when we live it, when our minds are conscious only of the present. Why the way we analyze and explain time is so dif-

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