Saturday, November 15, 2008

Why We Can't Stand Still

My instructor in my Modern Political Theory class was discussing how political theory, like any good idea, is generally applied retrospectively to a given situation. We aren't usually able to see patterns until after the fact. Not that this makes theory worthless, of course; we gain a greater appreciation of what has happened, and we can certainly learn about possible future occurrences of that given situation.

My instructor did point out the need for theory to be as proactive as it possibly could though, by positing this thought-experiment: "What if, tomorrow, science proves that I'm actually standing on the other side of the room?" It was a ridiculous idea, but not outside the realm of possibility.

We already know that time is relative, perhaps even more so than we would like to admit. It is, as I've long held, a social construct more than an empirical thing (I still show up early to everything, though). We can, if we like, view time as everything happening all at once, since there's no feasible end or beginning point for what we call "time." Even more disturbing/inspiring is quantum mechanics, which allows us to think really, REALLY big by looking at things that are very, very small. I offer the following easy explanation of superposition theory:

By this reasoning, my instructor most certainly could have been on the other side of the room, at the exact same time that he was where we perceived him to be. Using the aforementioned notion of time as relative, he could have been inhabiting both positions at different times as well. Whew. We can't stand still because, depending how you look at it, we are everywhere at once.

I love this stuff, but you can't think deeply about it for too long or your brain will explode.

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