Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I’ve been fascinated by the concept of time, most importantly with its relation to space. All of a sudden it seemed as if the notion of time has stopped, frozen in space with ourselves along with it. This is something I am describing in a podcast called Finding Direction in Disorientation with a friend Jonathan Cook from earlier this year where we discuss the nature of spacetime with regards to our changed perception. You can listen to it here if you like.
Having taken a turn towards exploring the nature of human perception, cognition, universal consciousness and energy shortly after, I came across a mini-article, a thought or an idea if you like that I wrote about two years ago. At the time it lacked the proper context which would make me understand where I was going with this. Now I understand it a little better.
So here it is…
While doing a bit of googling last night, I came across a fascinating article about the non-existent notion of time. It is from 2012, but since ‘there is no time’ apparently, I assume it doesn’t matter.
Time Doesn’t Matter, Our Obsession With It Does
This is a timely reminder of the nature of time in our culture that is obsessed with it. But why are we so obsessed with something that does not exist? With a concept that is not real? If “there is no time”, then what are we really obsessed with? I believe we’re obsessed not with time, but with what it represents: with the meaning of time. But what is it?
Could it be control? The need to control others so that they can’t control us? Could it be fear? Greed? Hypocrisy? And if it’s driven by fear and the need for control, could the abstraction of time be just a manifestation fear — of how much humans actually detest the idea of openness, love and vulnerability? Or is it just a legacy of the Industrial Age? A labelled box that has now lost all meaning as we and our society have lost it, too?
Time vs Value
This is a valuable insight for a civilisation which has become accustomed to view time as finite and the #1 most valuable resource there is. It might not be. The most precious and valuable thing might actually be something completely different than we believe it is — a human potential, maybe? If you fulfil your potential throughout your lifetime, then what is time as a currency and why would it matter to you at all? It has no validity for a life well-lived. For a meaningful life.
But isn’t time also tied to value? How do we value what we value then, without time? In a world without time, what is the nature of value? We have become accustomed to view and appreciate the value in time. As long-term value with longevity, durability that gives us a sense of continuity in life. This is paramount to the luxury brands, for example. Their overall value goes up in a direct proportion to how much value they were able to create and accumulate over time. If time isn’t paramount to value, what is? I believe it’s meaning.
Time is only important as an element because we gave it meaning. We — humans — have started valuing it, but on its own, time doesn’t value things. We do, through time, on the continuum of Nows. Without us, time has no value. Time has no meaning.
Welcome to Platonia
In this Popular Science article, the British physicist Julian Barbour explains how the only objectively perceivable notion we have regarding time is the Series of ‘Nows’ in a continuum of all possible Nows happening all at once. Essentially, the integral principle of Oneness — the holistic all-encompassing unity of all ideas and matter. This continuum can be thought of as a landscape (which means that time — if there were any — would be spatial and not linear, so there is no past-present-future). He calls this landscape ‘Platonia’ which in itself is completely timeless and created by perfect mathematical rules.
Universe Could Be Driven By Meaning, If Not Time
This is very interesting especially as I believed until quite recently that space and time were distributed unevenly throughout different global markets, which are adhered to different social and cultural values, and therefore also develop unevenly through time.
But if there is no time, there is, by definition, also no development, no progress and no future. There’s only a perfect harmony or a disharmony of Nows on a continuum of energies we call narratives. Which means that the Universe could actually be ruled by meaning and not time. The Universe might be the biggest storyteller!
The notion of what we humans call time might actually be Energy Alignment. It’s neither linear nor spatial, it’s energy. Time is a quantum field of energy and how fast or slow this energy moves largely depends on you: on your own energetic alignment with the underlying flow of the universe. Your own (in)ability to align is what then gives time meaning.
The Abstraction of Time Helps Create Order in Our Society
After all, time is an abstraction created by the human mind yearning for order and classification in the world of chaos and complexity beyond simple perceptions.
The idea of measuring time is inextricably linked to the age of modernity and the cultivation of the human capacity for abstract thought. Where there is the need to perform, measure and keep the machines rolling, there’s also an inherent need to track time. Without a timely performance, there is scarcity. And therefore, volatility, unpredictability and the invitation of chaos into the neat little worlds we have so carefully constructed.
In the world, where there are no shortcuts to meaning, time as a mental category makes perfect sense. On the other hand, if we are too busy measuring time all the time, we might realise we have neither time nor meaning. As the African proverb says: “People in the West all have watches, but have no time. We have no watches, but we have time.”
If you can have time without measuring it, chances are it doesn’t exist.
So, in a world without time, what is the nature of value?
It's Meaning. It's our Conscious Attention and our Conscious Creation.
And most importantly, it's Us. It's Humanity.
We are the ultimate value.
Dr. Martina Olbertova is a social scientist, writer, strategist and a semiotician interested in the expansion of consciousness, cognition, social and cultural change. In her work, she focuses on how the shifts in society redefine the perception of meaning in our culture today. She is the Founder and CEO of Meaning.Global, a global strategic intelligence consultancy, helping brands and businesses create new meaning and real value, and the world’s leading expert on creating meaning and cultural relevance in business, branding and marketing.