By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: Alan Burdick
Narrated by: George Newbern
Time is a mystery. Alan Burdick speculates on a definition of time in “Why Time Flies”. In some respects, Burdick’s story is enlightening; in others, time escapes his audience’s understanding.
Time appears to be a construct of mind and consciousness, both of which are equally mysterious. No one really knows what mind and consciousness are but recent experiments suggest they are a state of being that offers versions of reality; i.e. not objective truth but subjective understanding. Experiments show that the mind deconstructs what we see and reassembles it to have meaning in an individual’s consciousness.
Burdick shows, through recounted experiments, that time does not slow down when we experience traumatic events like a car crash or a bungee jump. What our mind does is reconstruct an accident or bungee jump through a consciousness that makes it seem time slows down. Our consciousness remembers or manufactures events as though they occurred in slow motion; i.e. we remember seeing our car flipping over, the top being crushed, and our effort to use a seat belt to steady our movements. All of this happens within a minute but we remember it in detail as though a slow-motion camera records the accident.
Burdick notes that time only flows in one direction. As common experience tells us, we cannot unbreak an egg. Life begins young and grows older; old begins old and gets older, at least until death. What happens next is another mystery.
Through manipulation of images, we can reverse time but we know it is an illusion. Various experiments show that time can be slowed down as speculated by Einstein (and later proved by others) but time is never shown to go backward. That is why travel to the past is considered impossible while travel to the future is, in a limited sense, possible. As movement approaches the speed of light, time slows down. A person on earth ages faster than a person in space. In a way, the person in space travels into a future. By returning to earth a person from space travels to the future because he/she aged at a slower rate than those left behind.
Burdick notes that time is always now. It has no past. It has no future. Time is “in the moment”. Burdick’s recognition is not helpful in understanding time. Time is never clearly identifiable because it is either becoming a history or a future.
How does one define a moment? It seems to be something between history and future but what is time’s physical marker? Maybe it is consciousness but no one knows what consciousness is and every person’s consciousness is personal and subjective; not universal.
At best, Burdick’s story only deepens the mystery of time.