#MindOfMarlar is written by Darren Marlar, host of Weird Darkness

Can I get your attention for just a minute? No matter your answer, the truth is yes… and no. Both. Because, you see, minutes aren’t a real thing… because time doesn’t exist. At least not according to Albert Einstein. Let me take a second to explain – or not take a second, because seconds don’t exist either. Boy, this is going to get confusing!

“I don’t have time for this nonsense!”

According to the guy with the bedhead hair and bushy mustache that, nevertheless, we still think of as a genius, the Theory of Relativity could be described as the universe being a giant neighborhood barbecue where all of space and time are hanging out together—at the same time — in the same tiny little itsy bitsy space. There’s no “Frisbee Golf over here” and “Corn Hole over there” – because there is no here or there. There is no specific time to show up for the block party – because everything is happening NOW, all at once. That means there is still enough potato salad for an army of extraterrestrial picnic ants, yet it has all been eaten already; the burgers are all frozen, but burnt at the same time. Your Aunt Melba has already ticked off everybody by judging the way all your neighbors incorrectly manicure their lawns, despite her not even having arrived to the barbecue yet. Confused? Yeah, me too.

Let’s try this… imagine you and your friend are watching a VHS movie – not a DVD or streaming, because my imaginary scenario and I grew up in the 80s. So you’re watching the VHS tape and you’ve reached the point of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where Matthew Broderick is wearing a bathrobe and telling you the movie is over, but your friend is still in the kitchen popping corn and the anti-pirating FBI warning hasn’t even popped up on the screen for him yet. That’s kind of how time works according to Einstein; what’s future for you could be someone else’s past. Simultaneously. Boy, that really cleared things up, didn’t it?

So if nothing happens at any time, does that mean I’m not actually late in paying my taxes? Because if we’re living in an existence without time, the word “late” would have no meaning. This could come in handy. On Monday I’ll tell my boss I’m not actually late to work, because Einstein says time doesn’t exist. In fact, now that I’ve arrived my day is already over and I’m going back home. Sweet!

Halle Berry figured this out a long time ago. (Photo: SELF)

Plus, you’re not really aging – because that also indicates “time,” which Einstein insists is not linear like we’ve been led to believe. So pick an age and stick with it. How old are you this year? Well, first you need to define the word “old” which no longer has meaning… and neither does the word “year”.

Silly isn’t it? Quantum mechanics thinks it’s pretty silly too. Quantum mechanics, another smarty-pants area of physics, doesn’t quite agree with this whole time-is-an-illusion idea. It thinks Einstein is an old fuddy-duddy and his theory is past its time… and out of touch with reality.

So, what’s the real deal with time? One way to figure it out might be just sitting down and thinking really hard about it, kind of like what J.M.E. McTaggart did back in 1908. He thought we could prove time isn’t real just by using our brains. Remember, this is more than 100 years ago… back when they figured 2+2 equals 4, when today we all know it’s whatever number you feel like at the precise moment and it’s number-fluid depending on its mood. So keep that in mind.

Let’s play a game with McTaggart’s idea though. Suppose someone handed you a box of index cards, each one describing a different event like VanHalen’s “1984” album being released, the Death of Queen Elizabeth, the solar eclipse in 2024, etc. But uh oh… your lousy brat of a brother decided to play “52 Pickup” without asking you if you wanted to play – and now they’re all over the floor and out of order! (Thanks a lot, Scott!)

So now you have to place them back in order – in TIME order. You start by laying them out in front of you: if one event happened before another, it goes to the left. So, you’d place Queen Elizabeth’s card to the left of the 2024 eclipse, but to the right of the year 1984 when that VanHalen album came out (hey, that’s a coincidence!), and that is to the right of George Orwell’s book “1984” which actually came out in… 1948. You remembered that fact from junior high school English class. Good for you! You keep going until you have a neat line of cards all arranged by events in the order they happened.

But here’s the hiccup: once you line up those cards, they don’t move or change, they just lie there. It’s like pausing a movie right in the middle of the action – like when you paused the swimming pool scene in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (don’t deny it, you did it) and Phoebe Cates just stands there like a still photo… indefinitely. Not a bad screensaver, but McTaggart says if nothing changes, if the movie never continues on, then it doesn’t represent time – because TIME is all about stuff CHANGING… moving forward!

Think about a cup of hot coffee getting cold. You don’t think about it changing, but the longer you wait, the colder it gets. As time passes forward, the coffee gets a room-temperature makeover.


Now, if that index card example didn’t work for you, let’s try McTaggart’s second idea, the “A-series” – with Face, Hannibal, B.A. Baracus, and Murdock… oh, wait, sorry… that’s the A-TEAM. And they’re cool… and that will NEVER change. The A-SERIES by McTaggart goes like this…

You make three piles:

1) past events

2) what’s happening now

3) future stuff

I keep one of these in my wallet at all times, just in case. (Photo: Mattel)

But here’s the catch: as time passes, to be accurate, you have to keep moving cards from one pile to the next. What’s happening now is no longer in the now, and it now has to be moved to the pile of stuff that is now in the past – and the stuff from the future eventually ends up in the stuff happening now pile… which then moves to the pile of stuff in the past… and so on. There are no “skip” or “reverse” cards coming your way like in UNO – as much as we’d love to have those as options. (Nope, I don’t want to visit my mother-in-law this weekend – I’m using my SKIP card!)

But we’re back to another problem – in order to move those index cards from pile to pile, you need TIME. It’s like needing water to go swimming—you can’t have one without the other, unless you plan on cracking open your skull by diving into an empty pool head first. And if you do that, the TIME you will have to endure after that is going to seem reeeeeeally long. So don’t do that. Plus, I don’t want to have to explain the whole “time is relative” thing.

McTaggart’s A-series method, the organized index cards, ends up running us in circles, and running in circles doesn’t usually get us anywhere. It’s funny when the dog does it with his tail, but you’ve probably noticed he doesn’t really make much of an impact on where he ends up from where he started.

And the B-series, Einstein’s “everything, everywhere, all at once” concept, where nothing ever changes, is more like watching paint dry.

“I’m saving my tips for the future!”

Even after a century of all of this, philosophers are still scratching their heads over it. Some think time is a straight line of events (hello B-SERIES fans), and others think it’s more about how things change (shoutout to the A-SERIES folks). Then there are the C-SERIES theorists, who think the line of time doesn’t even have a direction – much like your cousin Carl who delivers pizza for a living and still lives in the basement with his mom despite being 39 years old. No direction. That life is just as perplexing as figuring out time and space.

So, is time real or not? Well, ironically… only time will tell, after scientists and philosophers figure it out! And that’s pretty funny when you think about it, because we’re still not even sure if time is a thing.

McTaggart got everyone talking about this way back without any fancy equipment, just his brain and a lot of thinking. Now we have atomic clocks, powerful microscopes and telescopes, advanced math using imaginary numbers… and we still can’t figure it out.

Oh well… I’ll see you next time. Or not, if time doesn’t exist.


Views: 61