Flowing Forward

The flow of time is due to entropy. Entropy is flowing from a state of order into disorder, and we perceive that as the arrow of time. But, on a true scale, time is truly relational: it is a matter of motion and change relative to other things (ultimately, light).

What does this mean phenomenologically? How do we experience time? We seem to perceive the past as something that is solidified. The past happened. The future, on the other hand, is ruled by probability. Points and events are not located and defined. At best, we try and predict using information gathered from the past. The past is continuously shaping the way we view the future. But, the past is also not static. We can influence the past through the way we think of it. So, can we change the way we think about the future by changing how we think about the past?

What would changing the future do, though, but give us control over the future? What would you do with complete control of your life? If you could map and stage out the events of your life, how would you make it: Would it be easy and relaxing for the entire duration, or challenging and arduous?  Would you choose to live leaping from one high to another or sprinkle dashes of both extremes of highs and lows? The real question underneath this has to do with growth. There must be some form of transition for anything to grow or a change resulting from some disequilibrium. This transitional period may be perceived as suffering and uncomfortable, or merely different and strange—possibly even exciting due to the novelty of the unknown. If something were in constant equilibrium, then there would be no growth because how could something change without at some point disrupting the balance.

Why are we afraid of change? We fear change because it reminds us of our inability to be certain of the future. We fear what the future might bring and fret about how to prepare ourselves for the multitude of scenarios conjured in our imaginations. At the core of these worries is our fundamental need for self-preservation. Additionally, it could include other cardinal characteristics of ourselves that we’ve wrapped our identity around; in either case, the point of rumination revolves around the question of what happens when those areas break down or are threatened?

Furthermore, why is it that we assume our sense of self and identity are unified to begin with? If we utilize our mental energy for analyzing futuristic what-ifs, then when do we make the necessary mental pivot from gazing out into the future to reflecting backward into our past? Without self-reflection, we operate as entities merely floating down the river of time, anticipating what might present itself to us next and striving to respond accordingly. By remaining in this state of assessing and predicting, we simultaneously avoid the task of reflection and contemplation necessary for a consolidation of the self. Moreover, this future-focused mentality is quite easy to continually justify as one need only cite that the river’s perpetual motion as the reason they are unable to shift to a different mental viewpoint. The challenge lies in the question of when? When will do we feel it’s the appropriate time to engage in self-reflection and, by then, can it even serve the same purpose?

It is so alluring to become caught up in the constant motion of time that we can forget entirely about what rhyme or reason motivates us to continue pressing forward—also, forward to what? If we focus solely on the future, then doesn’t it stand to reason that we will continue to do so in the future? The challenge becomes to determine where and what the threshold is for enough: What constitutes enough money to merit reducing work? How many followers on social media are enough to shift this from one’s central priority? When will there be enough safety measures in place that we feel protected from the uncertainties of the future?

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