Meditation 3 – Time, Chance, and Destiny

I find myself staring at a puddle as hundreds of droplets of rain make contact every second. As each and every one of them strikes the puddle you could write a book about the energy change which follows. One galaxy; one solar system; one planet; one country; one city; one street; one puddle; one tiny droplet of water. Surely something as humbling as our universe wasn’t just created by chance – it must be destiny, surely. I think it is exactly so.

Everything that ever occurs in this world is pre-defined. The watchmaker is he who will make the watch. The fig tree will produce figs – it’s not chance, it’s their nature, and such is the nature of our universe to everything which happens in it. The nature of everything in the universe is part of the universe’s nature, from the dawn of time until the end, and it is impossible for anything in our universe to happen which is not in its nature.

What if every moment in time, of the smallest possible division, has happened; is happening; is yet to happen? What if the future of every individual particle, molecule, atom, is already decided? We already know that time isn’t constant, its relative, meaning it can be stretched and condensed, slowed and accelerated; but what if time itself is another directional axis in our reality, which just like any spatial dimension has 2 directions? Perhaps our universe (at least as we know it) has begun, lived, and died all at once – both forward and backwards.

If I flip a coin, probability dictates that there is a 50% chance of it landing on either heads or tails. However, if the coin is already facing tails up and I drop it straight down, with no added force, it will accelerate down to the ground and land with tails still facing up – seems obvious, right? So, if I were to toss it such that it only flipped once before landing, heads would now face up; twice, tails again; three times; heads again, and so on. Therefore, we can say with 100% probability that each specific toss, when executed exactly the same way twice, will always render the same result. The same goes for rolling a die – if you execute the exact same throw twice, with no outside interference, you will always achieve the same result – not just of the position of the faces, but of where the die lands, how it is aligned, how many times it bounces off the table-top – everything. This applies to our universe wholly. There is no such thing as chance.

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Stroboscopic effect created using flash capturing the motion of a coin as it is being tossed in the air

But there’s a problem here – it’s virtually impossible for someone to perform the exact same throw twice. However, it is logical that there is a 100% chance that the person would do it once. We have to go backwards in time to apply this to our reality. At the exact moment of casting the die (or more accurately, around 0.3 seconds beforehand) the thrower’s brain dictated a nervous response that they would perform that throw exactly as they did. There’s an exceptionally complex combination of reasons which caused the brain to dictate the nervous response exactly as it did, and those reasons each occurred by virtue of a complex combination of reasons of their own. Every reason is a consequence of the previous sum of reasons, and in something of an infinite domino effect, they all link back to the dawn of time. It’s effectively a butterfly effect, but backwards. Each action which happens causes the next one to happen in what we call the arrow of time. The arrow of time is simply time as we experience it as humans – that is, a constant rate of change.

There may be hundreds of thousands of individual energies, attractions, and forces acting on a single entity, but when they come together the way they come together, they will always have the same effect on that entity. That effect will be completely specific and will in turn cause other completely specific things to happen in this infinite domino effect which spans the course of time from the beginning to the end.

So why does the arrow of time only move in one direction for us? Why do we perceive everything the way we do if everything which happens in the universe is pre-defined?

The answer is actually exceedingly simple – we perceive the universe the way we do solely because that is how our sensory organs and brains have evolved in order to survive. All living organisms in the world, as far as we know, have a common ancestor, and so the likelihood that each and every one of us would experience reality in a similar way is very high. None of us can imagine things without our senses; none of us can imagine time moving backwards, or travelling through it; and even if we had a sensory organ to detect the parts of reality which aren’t already available to us we wouldn’t be able to process that information because we are held back by the relative simplicity of our brains.

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A perfect example of this is when a man regained his sight through stem cell research after 40 years of blindness since he was a child. The vast majority of sensory development happens in early childhood, so when this man was blinded as a child the portion of his brain responsible for processing the images which he could no longer detect was rendered null. His body did not waste any resources in developing this part of the brain so it replaced the region with useful things such as the processing centres for other sensory organs. As a middle-aged man, stem cell treatment gave him his eyes back and he was able to see again – but not quite in the same way. He was able to detect light with his eyes and his retinal nerve was able to transmit signals from his eyes to the processing centres of his brain, but his brain could not make sense of the images it was receiving. It had adapted itself to different functions. The man found navigating his house even more difficult than when he was blind. He could not recognise his own children’s faces even though he could see them – and so he blinded himself again. This sad story has great philosophical weight as well as the neurobiological facts which it brings light to. It proves how insufficient our mere 5 sensory organs (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) are for understanding the world around us in depth. The complexity of it could be far greater than anybody knows, and even if we could invent devices that allow us to convert all pieces of data into sensory evidence which was readily available to us, we still wouldn’t even be able to process that data because of our brains’ limitations. There could be infinite dimensions running parallel to ours, or incredible things happening around us which we cannot sense, and it would be utterly impossible for us to ever understand – no matter what.

The point is that we see what we see; we smell what we smell; we feel what we feel; we experience time and reality the way we do; we think in a particular way; all because that is the way we have evolved to do so in order to survive. Anything beyond this is, and will always be, unavailable to us.

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