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.