We live in a materialistic world and one feature of materialism is that we have come to believe that we can control everything.
That we are –
Top of the pile.
Smart as a whip.
The boss of the world.
And we are.
But clever as we are we can’t stop the arrow of time. We don’t even fully understand it.
Time passes and we can slow down its effects (and even try to paint over the cracks and give the appearance of time not having passed over us for quite as long as it has) but it makes no difference – the arrow of time will get us all in the end. It’ll be – ultimately – what kills us.
But the thing about the arrow of time is that it is also changing our psychological and emotional worlds along with our physical world. As we change, as we collect experiences and memories and ideas – even if magically nothing else was to change – everything changes. If you change one ingredient in a cake you will make a difference to the cake – that’s just a fact.
Because we are moving in time, growing and learning (however imperfectly) just by being in the world, we change. This means an interaction we have today will – by definition – be slightly different (at least) to one we had yesterday – because we have changed.
The arrow of time only moves forward and as it moves it brings change. There are ways in which this change brings greater and greater disorder (entropy) – our poor old bodies will testify to that. But the arrow of time and the change that it brings also has the capacity to bring greater and greater order – but for that to happen there needs to be synchrony.
A flock of birds or a shoal of fish moving in unison are not following orders or even keeping to a choreographed sequence – they are responding to the movement all around – a predator, a neighbour, a gust of wind, a branch – they respond to the change in their environment – whether large or small. They are sensitive and responsive to change not because they are thrill-seekers or love change itself, but because moving in synchrony with the world around them (including their fellow birds and fish) is their best chance of survival.
These birds and animals respond to change instinctually – our problem is that when we let our instincts rule we are inclined to avoid change. Any change. We tend not to like it – mainly I think because we feel it will makes our lives difficult. Even though we know, in theory, that change might actually be a good thing, we still avoid it because it makes us tourists in our lives – and that makes us nervous.
The thing about change – even positive change is that for us human beings to really deal with change we have to do the opposite to animals – we have to come off auto-pilot and pay attention.
In other words – we have to think.
And we don’t love thinking, because thinking is hard.
But it may be easier than suffering the consequences of not thinking.
Today, in spite of the fact that information has never been so readily available and easily accessible, we are less and less able to think for ourselves and this is most definitely leading to entropy not synchrony. The solution is to get into the habit of thinking for ourselves.
Maybe it’s time we took philosophy back from the drunks and academics?