“We think that the world is limited and explained by its past. We tend to think that what happened in the past determines what is going to happen next, and we do not see that it is exactly the other way around! What is always the source of the world is the present; the past doesn’t explain a thing. The past trails behind the present like the wake of a ship and eventually disappears.” – Alan Watts
Time is a sailing ship. The past is the wake. The future is what lies in the direction the ship is headed. And all of this concurrently exists in the present moment; the eternal now.
Both the past and future are projections from within the present.
We, as human beings, have a first person point of view of this voyage. Our body is the ship which we view the world from as we sail through space-time.
If you were to draw your perception back to a third person point of view, you would be able to see both the past (the wake left behind) and the future (where you’re headed). In the brilliant documentary “The Illusion of Time,” physicist Brian Greene compares space-time to a loaf of bread. What we perceive as now is a slice in that loaf of space-time, but the whole loaf always exists. So theoretically, if you were to somehow perceive reality from a higher perspective, you would be able to observe the whole “loaf” of space-time (past/present/future). Maybe this is the perspective of those who are able to “see the future.”
While the comparison to a loaf of bread is helpful in conceptualizing the past, present and future as the dimension of space-time, it doesn’t do justice to the ever-changing, dynamic nature of the universe. We live in a quantum soup of infinite possibility. There is no predetermined path (loaf of bread). The path is always shifting according to what you do in the present moment.
That’s why the metaphor of the ship is profound. You can change the direction of your ship at any point, and this will change both the future and the past. When you change direction, the wake you leave behind changes as well as your course ahead.
Even the simple concept of forgiveness demonstrates this. If you forgive someone who has wronged you in the past, you change the meaning of the past. So instead of harboring hatred and resentment in the present moment, you let go and feel freedom, love and empathy.
You have the power to transform past failures into learning experiences; pain into a catalyst for growth; disappointment into opportunity.
A related, mind-bending phenomenon is called the delayed choice or quantum eraser effect, pioneered by the physicist John Wheeler. Imagine a star emitting a photon billions of years ago, heading towards Earth. And there is a galaxy in between the star and Earth. Because of this, the light will have to bend around the galaxy in order to reach Earth (which is called “gravitational lensing”). The photon can take one of two paths around the galaxy, left or right. Billions of years later, if someone decides sets up a device to catch the photon, it would behave as a wave, not a particle. This demonstrates that the photon really took both ways around the galaxy.
You could also view the photon by focusing a telescope on either side of the galaxy to determine which side the photon traveled to reach Earth. The very act of measuring the photon’s behavior means it can only come from one side. It will no longer act as a wave that went both ways, but as a particle which only went in the direction from which it was observed.
This is mind-bogglingly profound. It means that how we measure the photon now actually affects the direction it traveled in billions of years ago.
Everything is a projection from the present moment. The eternal now is all that exists, and from it you have the power to change both your future and your past.
Enjoy the voyage and sail free.
– Stevie P!