I never understood spacetime or the theory of relativity, and I still don’t, but “Einstein’s Dreams” provides entertaining hypotheticals for time that question our experience of reality.
The book attacks our everyday illusions, illustrating how easily we forget the conventions we live by are cultural constructions. Time is no exception. Sunrise and sunset may serve as general markers, but the clock is an arbitrary agreement to coordinate humanity. We may never know if there were gaps in time or other strange artifacts that created different rules of for our universe.
I dream of living on ‘body time. I’ve always been frustrated by the 24 hour day, the five day work week, the 8 hour work day. They seem like old concepts in a world that’s always on and connected, for better or worse. The chapter on body and mechanical time illustrates the difficulty of modern life, where we float between the two.
And it is not quite any of the scenarios described, but our collective perception of time has definitely changed in the 21st century. The smartphone age is kind of like the scenario where time terminates at the present – because we can’t relish the moment that has just past, we must move to the next, responding to every buzz in our pockets. (The book “Present Shock” by Douglas Rushkoff describes this well.) There are likely other ways our time has been manipulated in the information age and it’s worth a more thorough investigation.
“Einstein’s Dreams” was helpful in reexamining my own relationship to time. I used to hold it sacred, believing there was only a fixed amount we get, creating a constant anxiety to not waste any of it. There never was enough time, never enough accomplishments. But this view is silly for a number of reasons, but really our relationship to and perception of time isn’t fixed, it changes as we grow older. It speeds up, we put the days away, and perhaps, one day, are content to end it. It’s likely I’ll look back and regret all the energy I wasted worrying about it.