I’m in the moood for a chintzy metaphor.
We humans are but a pinhead buried amidst the infinitesimal surface and curvature of spacetime.
How does that work for you?
Sorry, I realize that insofar as metaphors are concerned, it leaves a lot to be desired. But can you argue the point?
We are small people.
Our lives our small. Our bodies are small. And our minds are small.
In comparison, of course. If our world was the size of a closet and our lifespan a matter of a few minutes, and our bodies and minds occupied the same present space they do in this universe, then it would be fair to say we are a mammoth race. But that’s not the case.
We live in a universe that spans incomprehensible distances and which has existed for an equally incomprehensible amount of time.
Because our minds are puny.
Our perspective is tiny.
We define the physical world, we demarcate it in relative terms to our physical size as humans. We are sensory, primitive beings and our consciousness is the result of eons of evolution, a consciousness which has evolved within the confines of a human head which interprets the world through its narrow human vision. Our reality is essentially composed of that we can touch and travel across in a reasonable amount of time.
This is why attempts to comprehend the sheer galactic magnitude of our universe is baffling, elusive and disconcerting. In order to understand or delineate inhuman tracts of space, we put a time label on them in order to better “understand” them. We have absolutely no way of visualizing the immense reach of space represented by 16,070,400,000 miles. It is such an unfathomable distance that our mind cannot grasp its enormity. In order to make sense of it (a laughable thought), we choose to rephrase such an astronomical number by converting it to a figure which represents the distance we would travel in one 24-hour day if we were as swift as the speed of light.
Ha…not really much help, is it?
But it is. We can call it one “light day” I suppose but I don’t believe physicists are overly fond of such a notion. Physicists deal with much grander and mind-crushing distances. They speak and hypothesize in terms of light years, a notion which makes my hair curl if I think about it. How far would you travel in one year if you traveled at the speed of light? Oh, you know…only about 5,865,696,000,000 miles. You know, not just one trillion….five damned trillion. Miles.
We are pinpoints, are we not?
As finite and relatively small beings, we are well of aware of our physical insignificance when measured against the enormity of the natural world. Discounting intergalactic distances, just in the context of our own planet we are dwarfed by mountains and plains and oceans and even some mammals and sea life. As we decrease the scale, our minds find some comfort in the comprehension of larger earthbound objects for we can easily grasp the boundaries of such hugeness. In this respect, I believe mankind has a good grasp of his relative physical presence in the grand scheme of nature. His self-context is realistic and grounded. Though he has trouble grasping certain distances, he nevertheless understands the near imperceptibility of the space he occupies on this planet. He is able to view the whole of space’s unseen boundaries.
However, when it comes to the element of time, man has difficulty comprehending the mind-numbing nature of time’s march since the early days of planet Earth. Because of the same limitations we experience through our humanly limited physical self-awareness in the context of the wider world, we also share many of these same shortcomings in the realm of time. We are simply incapable of comprehending galactic spans of time. Our perspective of time is limited, for once again we are but specks of fleeting existence against the duration of time the earth is believed to have existed: at the very least, 5,000,000,000 years; or the amount of time he might have walked the earth, 4-6,000,000 years; and since the advent of the modern, internet-dwelling creature he has become, 9,000-12,000 years. We are barely able to wrap our minds around 10,000 years. It is virtually impossible to comprehend millions of years in simple explicable concepts. There is no “light year” shorthand helper available to the time traveler. We are amazingly inept at sorting out the concept of time in our heads and portioning it out in understandable contexts.
I like to say humans are guilty of an “eracentric” mentality.
An eracentric mentality is that short-sighted perspective which does not allow us to wisely comprehend the radical changes that can occur over time in the nature of man’s mind and body. It blinds us to the dynamic nature of evolution as it imperceptibly alters our humanity over the span of hundreds of generations. The eracentric viewpoint lulls us into a pattern of thought in which we appraise the moment in time we presently occupy, or era, and try to define and understand it in a limited and fixed context where we gut it of all manipulations by the awesome reach of time’s influence. Eracentric behavior leads us to define present human behavior and idiosyncrasies within the boundaries of this era only while failing to view our era as the miniscule spot on mankind’s march in time that it really represents. Our limited life view is myopic and is unable to understand the effect those generations which preceded ours and our parents, and maybe our grandparents, had on our present era.
Human nature also is such that it elevates its own generation to a lofty status which ambivalently demeans generations of antiquity as primitive and crude. The eracentric outlook blinds us to the evolving nature of our cultural appearance and mannerisms. The eracentric outlook causes us to look for answers to problems (blame) that live within our own perceptible era, rather than attempt to appraise our own place in time’s parade realistically and honestly. Man’s time comprehension disallows him from venturing beyond the barriers of immediate history.
This concept of “eracentric” is very important to my unfolding theories of modern human behavior. It is an integral element in my Hive theory. Also, it was stirred to life after reading an unfolding discussion over on Hooking Up Smart about feminism and other similar deconstructions of feminism in this blogosector where we attempt to lay the blame of our current cultural logjam at the hands of feminism. The concept of “eracentric perspective” leads me to question many popular views and opinions about our world, feminism, included. I am beginning to doubt whether feminism, per se, is directly responsible for many of the gender dystopian qualities of our modern society. Rather, I must ask, is feminism merely a symptom of evolving evolutionary psychology in itself? Is blaming feminism counterproductive (and unproductive) to our understanding of evolving gender roles?
That discussion is beyond the scope of this post but I would like to address it at another time.
In this post, I merely want to outline and explain my opinion that makind’s inability to perceive and truly comprehend the forceful influence of time on his current predicament is owing to his lack of time comprehension which is manifested by his eracentric outlook.