The Book of Now

When we act, it’s the present moment. After acted, we see. After seeing, we harvest meanings, collect categories, order priorities, and project eventualities to promote the continuance of current events into future moments of created time that come again, come again, come again; gone.

What we do is, and we do it very well, is we project directions in the present moment, and encourage or deny directions based on our general expectations of coming present moments, usually moments expected to come soon, sometimes much later. We are able to hold several different moments in mind simultaneously, instead of being confined to the actual moment we exist within and act within.

Reality is a manifestation of past projections into the future. As each moment comes into the present, where actions are performed, rather than recalled, the most efficient method of creating any given set of current space/time would be as close as possible to the last position. The universe, as it comes into existence in the present, can’t occupy the same space/time coordinates as the moment that has now passed into existence, but would more efficiently occupy a coordinate as close as possible to the one just created before it. Of course, this requires an endlessly expanding universe.

The shape of the universe is constantly expanding to contain what it creates. Size is never static, vision never reaches an end.

The sensation of being constantly washed over with successive present moments, one after another, becomes more and more independent of this one present moment, due to an incredible trick called consciousness. As we do what we need to do, we think about things that have just happened, in little loops, of words or gestures or memories, while we continue to search for ways to keep the things we need going into the future. Consciousness seems to exist outside of physical time, as we all witness when we do two or three things at the same time, or examine the many things we must do at once to accomplish something we need to do.

A list of some of the actions the mind takes in the present moment that create the feeling that we are in a longer period of time than a single present moment, or now:

The first three actions, which we can easily accomplish at any given moment, demonstrate our consciousness bouncing between, and simultaneously creating our useful mental model of past, present and future. The ability of living creatures to recall, observe, and react simultaneously seems impossible in a physical world where one moment becomes real and then instantly becomes unchangeably part of the past.

There’s a rigorous, scientific basis for our understanding of the utter impossibility of changing the past: it’s never been done, despite our efforts. Our efforts to control the world around us have justly been confined to directing the ways we want things to happen in the uncreated future.

There is no need to argue that the present moment is the only temporal space that holds the possibility to change things. Everyone knows, even if they seek to profit from the dubious celebrity bestowed by paradox and perversity, that we never experience actions except in the present moment, where all actions occur.

The common idea that the future is pre-existent is one that can be argued, but never proven. We live in a fever of expectations that constantly become true, and then become the past. This feels like things that happen were going to happen anyway, and could be considered to be existing just before or long before the present moment. Each successive present moment “proves” that these things must have already existed, since no effort is required to observe them happening as expected, and becoming the past as they always have become. But even the grammatical paradox necessary to describe a pre-existent future shows us the error of a predetermined future. Even those of us determined to reject the idea that time begins in the present moment must admit that the future can be changed by actions in the present, because we can change the future whenever we wish by refusing to do something expected of us.

The second three actions refer to our ability to hold ideas in the present moment that aren’t currently in the same moment as that we observe and control.

Once we begin to process incoming events, we put them into a mental space that holds them outside of the flow of time and allows us to see them as they compare to previously observed events. The words of any sentence must be compared to our memories of the meanings we have previously given them, and then we understand them, in context, which is a parallel process; word, memory, context; all at the same time. Memory determines a context, and continues to hold a place for the first word of a sentence even after subsequent words take the first word’s place in the moments that succeed it.

To successfully get from the present moment into a desired state that has yet to happen, we project and continue actions that take what we can control from one state to the next. We’ve heard enough words to predict the meaning of a sentence, we are holding words that were read a moment ago in the current moment, that give us enough meaning to realize the probable meaning, based on memories that we are recalling as we hold these memories, and we are projecting the end of the sentence by doing a down and dirty calculation of the probable meaning, and formulating a response before we’ve heard every word.

The last two actions are both variations on the ways we can expand this elastic container of thoughts to include longer periods of time. We can imagine far distant pasts and futures at once.

We do it all in an elastic sense of the present that expands, to the extent our intelligence allows us, to fit the range of time we wish to understand.

In any possible understanding, the complexity of the actual sequence of mental activity in the flow of time is astounding, once we detach consciousness from the certain and unstoppable procession of one moment becoming unchangeably fixed after the next. If our minds were as immutable as the past, we should only be able to hold the present moment in mind as it happens. How could we hold the first, most distant word of a sentence, which we read, compared to other words, understood and held in our mind until the last word, many seconds later?

The problem can be solved if we were to explore St. Augustine’s idea of time as being a state that we can be outside or inside of. We live our lives inside time, ceaselessly advancing from the present moment and creating the past, while trying desperately to control the future.

Events rush by us, as we act on them, and much of what we see clings to our consciousness for a while, then dwindles into impressions, and finally oblivion, as each new event takes it’s place in our field of vision.
Our ability to remember things, order them backwards and forwards in our mental models, and classify the sequence in the reverse order of appearance, is impossible unless consciousness is detached, to some extent, from the flow of time. Every time we hold a memory or a recording of something that has already happened in our minds, we are simultaneously in two places in time, and as time passes, we go through many more. This fluidity of time is the ability that gives all animals consciousness.

The sheer amount of time that we can model in the present moment, where we actually act and react, is huge compared to an animal. It follows that if consciousness is somewhat outside of the ineluctable flow of time that physical matter exists entirely within, then to the extent we can model larger spans of time, we increase our intelligence.

Inside time, we can measure intervals smaller than the swiftest thought, and know beyond any possibility of doubt that once an interval is observed, it can never be observed again, and is considered fixed and unchangeable, since the only change any physical process can undergo only happens in the present observation, and relies on the assumption that the prior observation is unchanged in order to be any change at all. If we flip a coin, we get tails, and if we turn it over to the other side, we get heads. The tails side must be there for a flip to change from heads to tails. Without the assumption of an immutable past, there is no life, no time, no space, no universe at all.

The only way consciousness can model time is by working outside of the immutably physical constraints of the past, even though the lengthy threads of time required to formulate the simplest thought stretch far beyond the infinitesimal intervals of time science is capable of defining.

While we are all modeling time, thinking in terms of past, present, and future; using these models to understand ourselves, our world, and each other; we are at a remove from the physical universe, and understanding this remove is a primary requirement for any further understanding of the mysteries of consciousness.

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This is one of the foundations of the philosophy of time used by the Book of Now to help you to understand more deeply the physical issues that are distinct from the theoretical issues involved with creating each moment as it occurs.