Home > anthropology, consciousness, Perception, philosophy, physics > Public Space, Private Time, and the Aperture of Consciousness

Public Space, Private Time, and the Aperture of Consciousness


In the first diagram, I’m trying to show the relation between public and private physics, and how the aperture of consciousness modulates which range is emphasized. Contrary to the folk model of time that we currently use, multisense realism proposes that time is only conceivable from the perspective of a experiential narrative. Time cannot be translated literally into the public range of experience, only inferred figuratively by comparing the positions of objects.

Through general relativity, we can understand spacetime as a single entity defined by gravity and acceleration – to quote Einstein, a

“non-rigid reference-body, which might appropriately be termed a “reference-mollusk,” is in the main equivalent to a Gaussian four-dimensional co-ordinate system chosen arbitrarily”.

While space and time can indeed be modeled that way successfully, what has been overlooked is the opportunity to see another profoundly fundamental symmetry. What GR does is to spatialize time. This is a great boon to physics since physics has focused exclusively on public phenomena (for good reason, initially), GR has enabled accurate computations on astronomical scales, taught us how to make cell phone networks work on a global scale, send satellites into orbit, etc. Einstein accomplished this by collapsing the subjective experience of time passing (which can change depending on how you feel about what’s going on) into a one dimensional vector of ‘observation’. Not any special kind of observation, just a point of reference without aesthetic dimensions of feeling, hearing, tasting – only a generic sense of position and acceleration. This is the public perspective of privacy, i.e. not private at all, but a footprint which points to the privacy which has been overlooked but assumed.

This is great for modeling some aspects of public phenomena, but in reality, there is no actual public perspective that we can conceive of. There is no voyeur’s view from nowhere which defines perspectives without any mode of sensory description. That view from ‘out there’ is purely an intellectual abstraction, a hypothetical vantage point. Why is this a big deal? It’s not until you want to really understand subjectivity in its own terms – private terms. By spatializing time, GR strips out the orthogonal symmetry of space vs time which we experience and redefines it as an illusion. Our native experience of time is as much the opposite of space as it is similar. Time is autobiographical, it is memory and anticipation. We can stay in the same place while time passes. Our time also moves with us, with our thoughts and actions.

Space, by contrast, is a public field in which we are tangibly located. If we want our thoughts to stay somewhere, we must leave some material trace – write a note or make a sign. When we want to meet someone, establishing the spatial coordinate for the meeting is based on a literal location – a physical address or reference (by the palm tree in the South Square Mall). The time coordinate is more figurative. We look at clocks with made up numbers which we have intentionally synchronized, or pick an event in our shared narrative experience (after the movie is over). If our watches are wrong, it doesn’t matter as long as they are both wrong in the same way. If we actually need to be a specific palm tree, it doesn’t matter if we are both wrong in the same way, we will still be at the wrong location. Time, in this sense is a social convention, while space is an objective fact.

Looking at the diagram, I have put this sense of time as a social convention in the center right, as the clip art alarm clock. This is the familiar sense of time as personal commodity. Running out of time. The bells emphasize the intrusive nature of this face of time – our behavior is constrained by conflicting agendas between self and others, home and school or work, etc. There is a pie to be allotted and when the clock strikes X, the agenda is expected to follow the X schedule. The label just under this clock marks the point of punctuality, where the time that you care about personally no longer matters, and the public expectation of time takes over.

Above this personal, work-a-day agenda sense of time, I have included a Mayan calendar to reference a super-personal sense of time. Time which stretches from eternity to the eternal now. Time which is measured in fleeting flashes and awe-inspiring syzygies. Time as cosmological poetry, shedding light on experience through experience. This is time as a dance with wholeness.

Beneath the alarm clock I have used the guts of a digital clock to emphasize the sub-personal sense of time. The alarm clock face of time collapses the mandala-calendar’s eternal cycle into personal cycles, but the digital clock breaks down even the numbers themselves into spatial configurations. Time is no longer moving forward or even cycling, but blinking on and off instantaneously.

This all correlates to the diagram, where I tried to juxtapose the public space side of the camera with the private experience side. The subjective disposition of our awareness contracts and dilates to influence our view. At the subjective extreme, the view is near sighted publicly and far sighted privately. For the objective-minded individuals and cultures, the view outside is clear and deep, but the interior view is purely technical. The little icons have some subtle details that came out serendipitously too – with the headless guy on top vs the camera guy on the bottom, but I won’t go into that…rabbit hole alert. The last few posts on psychedelics and language relate…it’s all about how spacetime extends intentionality from private aesthetics to public realism through diffraction of experience.



  1. June 10, 2013 at 9:11 am

    don’t get it all, but fascinating, fascinating; nice to surf around on

    • June 10, 2013 at 10:34 am

      Thanks. The irony is that now that I have a grand unification theory of everything, I need a grand unification theory of how to present it. I keep adding to the description pages, but I am hesitant to delete anything because I don’t want to lose it. I figure that I might need it later, and also that I never know which parts might resonate with someone. It seems like a big overhaul is in the cards soon though.

  2. Joseph McCard (really)
    June 11, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    It looks a though sense presents you with only a picture of your immediate environment. Is there any room for extra-sense, extrasensory perception that is?

    • June 11, 2013 at 9:17 pm

      The public range of sense is local, and would require public instruments to extend, but the private range of sense can be sub-personal or super-personal. In the super-personal range, I think that the perspective of ‘now’ is seen from a ‘higher’ view, so that we can pick up on things before they have happened on the personal level. On the higher and lower edges of our awareness, the public and private overlap more, so it is not out of the question that some would have sensitivities in ranges that would allow glimpses into the more exotic kinds of sense – remote viewing, object reading, psychic mediumship, etc. Because they are super-personal, however, they are both more real and less real than personal levels of awareness. The more you try to nail them down to testable phenomena, the more they will be indistinguishable (or nearly so) from chance. Likewise, the more we try to exalt them as oracles of wisdom, the more they will be indistinguishable from delusion. The air is thin up there…most are not served by trying to breathe it.

    • June 11, 2013 at 9:23 pm

      I guess the short answer is that ‘extra-sensory’ is really a misnomer, as it refers to sense which is ‘extra-personal’. In absolute terms, nothing can ever be truly extra-sensory.

  3. PhiGuy110
    June 19, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Thanks for always writing such great responses to my questions.

    I was wondering if you could, either as a response here or in a post, comment on sensation itself, that is to say on the sensory modalities we experience as humans. It strikes me that one of the great unasked metaphysical questions is whether the 5 senses that we know exhaust the kinds of sense available to being. Some see a deep truth in this, as 5 is a number closely associated with phi and the Fibonacci sequence (we also have 5 digits on our appendages). Even the existence of the 5 platonic solids makes one wonder if our senses somehow represent a phenomenological analog to this geometric truth. And what does each of the senses make sense of? What sense do the senses make?

    Much has been made of echolocation as a possibly alien form of sense (and the basis of serious anti-reductionist arguments in philosophy of mind, as with Nagel’s classic essay) but it’s just as easy to imagine, perhaps easier, that echolocation is simply the bat’s way of generating visual sense, or perhaps some synesthesian fusion of visual and auditory modalities.

    Synesthesia itself presents phenomenological conundrums that are worth teasing apart. If synesthesia is possible why have we evolved with such separation to our senses? Does a person with synesthesia loose as much as he gains? And, could a total, radical, singular sysesthesic unitary SENSE be imagined?

    Finally, there is the complicated relation of sensory experience to thought. Though the two are generally conceptually separated (could there be anything seemingly less “sensory” than abstract thinking) I bet the real story is far more complicated. My intuition is that all thought is sensory through and through though the way thoughts, and, in particular, language, represent (experience?) sensation is mind-boggingly subtle. (Is this Hume’s distinction between ideas and impressions again?)

    Love to hear your thoughts on the senses. Seems important for MR.

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