Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Talking Time with Dr Manhattan

It is 2009. I am reading The Watchmen. Dr Manhattan fascinates me. He raises a point concerning the nature of time and how humans incorrectly perceive it. It takes me some time to catch on. He narrates his memories as present tense. He sees no sense in distinguishing time into a linear form of past present future. Everything happens now. Everything is happening now. My mind is attempting to enlarge itself to understand the concept. I finish the chapter. I close the book.


Time is simultaneous. This is the grand idea that has stuck with me ever since I read the Watchmen. It was like the pinnacle of my existentialist philosophising back in the day. You could even say it became the straw that broke the camel’s back. I have had to tuck the idea away for some time as my mind was unable to comprehend it. I hope one day to read some physics books that might shed some light but the questions that this has raised are too tough to really explain.

I guess the first thought was that assume everything is happening right now then does that mean we have a destiny? This thought falls apart as I try articulate it but do we control our decisions or are we simply a piece of consciousness floating through time? Are we just the universe learning how to observe itself?

What are memories? If the past is non existent then how come I can remember something that isn’t happening now? And yet memories are so fleeting. As time goes by (or as we go by time) they lose their strength. Consider back before conscious thought existed: Nobody had the capacity to remember yet existence still existed. But perhaps evolution is just a form of memory applying itself.

I did find myself delving into depths of infinite magnitude and it was for this reason I had to put the train of thought on the backburners. I did convey a lot of my thoughts into this scenario. The basis of my curiosity always came back to the role of consciousness and ego in the universe.

I could go on for a while in this vain but I just can’t see it accomplishing a lot. This is kind of like my therapy. An outlet for my desire to understand so it doesn’t bottle up and boil over or consume my every thought. I guess one last thought is that in the quest to understand the infinite we will inevitably fall short and either go crazy or start to rely on unconfirmed superstition. This seems like a fundamental stepping stone in religion, in that it is easier to believe in God (whatever you consider God to be – and yes I believe everyone has a God in some shape or form) and get on with it rather than keep searching the abyss for meaning.

"I'll never understand" - The Flaming Lips

- Eden


  1. Yeah I guess we are the universe observing itself - as Carl Sagan once said (while resting on a tree), "this tree and me, we're made of the same stuff". Everything in the universe in made of the same elements, we are all made of the remains of stars. As fusion occurs in the core of stars, new, heavier elements are made and eventually you end up with a human brain.

    Time has meaning for us since we only have a finite amount. For dr manhattan it meant nothing since he had an infinite amount. I have no idea how Allan Moore thought of that shit. I have my own thoughts on time, ill try and write them down in another comment.

  2. Time is an illusion. The mind is an illusion. The only thing we now exists for sure is the present moment - the now.

    As I was reading 'The Power of Now' by Eckhart Tolle the other day, I thought to myself that everything that happens in time, all happens in the now. Your 5th birthday didn't happen then, it happened now. Your 50th birthday won't happen in the future, it will happen now. There's no point in thinking about the past of future, because it won't happen then, it will happen now.

    Fuck I love Dr. Manhattan!

  3. I'm not sure if I believe that time is an illusion, on a literal, scientific level. To say there is only a 'now' is useful in a philosophical sense, as you can't physically go to the past or the future (another Wayne Coyne quote - "all we have is now, all we've ever had is now").

  4. You guys have watched Cosmos and read Brief History of Time. How much do they deal with explaining concepts like this? I have heard Einstein too believed time to be simultaneous but for our feeble minds it appears to be linear. I need someone to clear this up for me in 3 paragraphs or less.

  5. Yeah I was speaking in a philosophical/ spiritual sense - not on a scientific basis.

    I think that we only perceive time to be linear, because that's all we can truly understand, and that's all that's possible within the "laws of nature" upon which this universe exists. There may be parallel universes with different laws of nature that allows time to be simultaneous, but for us it moves in a forward direction.

    In a Brief History of Time, Hawking discusses time as linear, in a chapter called "The arrow of time" or something like that. Basically he explains how time is always moving forward, and never backwards. It may move forward at different speeds (see my blog on his book review), but if it were to move backward it would break the fabric of space-time and would be essentially outside the laws of nature.

    I'm no scientist, so I don't know all the ins and outs, but it sure is fun to think about!

  6. Your mum cleared me up in three paragraphs.

  7. hey guys, long time lurker, first time poster. I think time is imagines but not always imagines. What is imagines? Einstein knew.