Personal Reflection

Does the Present Exist?

I’ve taken to listening to Ted Radio Hour by NPR, and two weeks ago, the show was called “Shifting Time.” It was a really interesting about time: the passage of time, the existence of time, and other huge concepts that make my head hurt.

The person who stood out to me the most was Sean Carroll, who is a theoretical physicist, which means I didn’t understand most of what he said. His main argument was that for physicists, there is no distinguishing between past and future. There’s no room for that to exist. The laws of physics show no difference between past and future. 

I have to admit. My mind is far too simple to understand this, but I was interested to learn that these are the things people are trying to understand, and I admire those who can not only understand what that means but also learn more about it, research it, and speak clearly on it.

Anyway, long story short, he started discussing how everything that we’re experiencing is in the past. When you look at a star in the night sky, you’re looking at the star as it was four years ago. When you look at your spouse across the table, you’re seeing a past version of him/her. Everything you read, see, hear, smell, etc. is in the past. Carroll said what you’re currently experiencing (reading this little blog post) is happening 80 milliseconds in the past.

Isn’t that weird? When you think about time like that, there is no such thing as the present. Everything has happened or will happen. Nothing is happening.

He said the present is like the line between water and sand on a beach. We can see the line, and it looks like there’s something there. But there’s nothing other than sand and water. There is no actual line. Just like there’s only past and future. There is no present.

I don’t have anything to contribute to this conversation nor is it really life changing. However, it made me take pause. It kind of blew my mind to think about. I don’t know how to think about these things, but I know that I’d like to. This is a cool concept for me. And although I don’t know what it means for me, I had fun considering what it meant to have no present.


Image taken from Eight Sleep. “17 Deep Thoughts That Will Blow Your Mind.”

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