The physicist Michio Kaku claims that the possibility for time travel could be discovered through a precise mathematical exploration into the quantum realm.
That may be, but biologically, memory can serve us well in floating the past to the surface of the present, or even projecting both into various possibilities for the future.
There is a sense I get, when remembering, or reading history, that differs from my conception before, and that is that things that happen occur in the moment, just as my thought regarding things that just happened occur in the moment. it is almost as though one can sense the energy, or feel the movement or echo of what might have occurred “a long time ago”.
The present moment must of course be a priority, but the past seems to have been just here, to be indelibly etched into the space-time continuum, so that perhaps I might still hear the voice of a long lost friend, or see myself doing something I regretted for many years later. I am no longer acting that way, but I am still acting that way. Yet, I cannot reach out and prevent myself from making a bad decision that I have already made. I can however, reach forward into the realm of possibility, which can also seem just as defined as the past.
In memory I am three years old, and we are in a large truck being driven by a stranger. We are in a bed of mud. I look down and begin to navigate my way out of the truck, but my dad tells me to stay where I am. he is wearing boots. he and the stranger walk a few feet from the truck. I know now that this is where our home will be built.
I am six years old, running between the trees on the other side of the creek behind our house. I am climbing the trees. There are turtles and crawdads in the creek. The pool at the end is filled with tadpoles. At night, lightening bugs dance in our back yard. There is a whippoorwill, a fact I would not have noticed unless it was pointed out by my dad. I am more intrigued with the name of the creature than the sound it makes. My brother, shorter than me with slender shoulders, allows me for a while to direct him by placing my hand on his neck, then complains. I tell him I am a ghost. We are carried away by the story. My brother believes it and I no longer see him because he hides under the bed. I am thick with imagination. “I am a ghost, but I won’t hurt you,” I tell my brother. From the vantage of the present, the me who is speaking in the past does not know that it is true.
I am still in the fifth grade, walking home through the orchards slowly with my friends. And I am still arriving late to the first day of college in Twin Peaks, CA after driving the length of California from Klamath Falls, OR and asking the young, light bright-blonde haired girls in the office where to go. I am still driving the streets of San Bernardino in the wake of the Los Angeles riots, tension thick in the air, in the midnight hours, seeking to do a good deed.
I am playing imaginary games with my brother and sister in the living room, and telling my brother that I am a ghost and not a living person. Still lifting lumber and working 12 hour shifts in the winter cold at the sawmill in Lakeview, OR. And I am holding my newborn babies, all three, all at once, for the first time. And I am writing a novel in my crib. Still arriving in Lawrence, KS, in Huntington, WV, in Kansas City, and in Albuquerque, NM by bus and getting into the first taxi cab I see with no idea about Albuquerque, or where I will live, what I will do, who I will know. I am still committing a social faux pas, still seeking redemption, down on my knees, in a Mexican church listening to a language I understand but do not comprehend.
And sitting in a cubicle at the St. Louis Art Museum, and riding the bus home. I am still pushing my son in the swing, pushing my daughter in the swing, still swinging, looking down at the ground below me and imagining small cities and smaller people thousands of feet below. I am still composing sonnets in the womb, and telling my mother a story as she lifts me into my first experience of the light of day.
In his Confessions, St. Augustine writes:
"For what is time? Who can easily and briefly explain it? Who even in thought can comprehend it, even to the pronouncing of a word concerning it? But what in speaking do we refer to more familiarly and knowingly than time? And certainly we understand when we speak of it; we understand also when we hear it spoken of by another. What, then, is time? If no one ask of me, I know; if I wish to explain to him who asks, I know not. Yet I say with confidence, that I know that if nothing passed away, there would not be past time; and if nothing were coming, there would not be future time; and if nothing were, there would not be present time. Those two times, therefore, past and future, how are they, when even the past now is not; and the future is not as yet? But should the present be always present, and should it not pass into time past, time truly it could not be, but eternity. If, then, time present — if it be time — only comes into existence because it passes into time past, how do we say that even this is, whose cause of being is that it shall not be — namely, so that we cannot truly say that time is, unless because it tends not to be?"
The conflation or confusion, or possible paradox, between time as a coordinate of the known universe (manifest in conjunction with three apparent spatial coordinates) and eternity is a puzzle difficult if not impossible to untangle. I have the suspicion, however, that the past and future are not, as it would seem, mere constructs of memory as abstraction, or as I have already suggested merely a biological phenomenon, neurons firing in the nervous system. Rather, I wonder if memory itself is not somehow appended to eternity, and eternity entangled in the mystery of the present in union with eternity, the sacrament of now spreading itself out?