Thursday, June 01, 2017

Möbius strip

For critics, mature creation, or Omphalism, is the definition of a special pleading. An ad hoc expedient. Yet whatever the motivation, the idea itself is philosophically deep and powerful. 

It goes to the mismatch between existence and imagination. World history has the elements of a story: plot, setting, characters. Conversely, real events must begin at some point and terminate at some point. 

The challenge for a storyteller is where to begin the story and end the story. Stories have no absolute starting-point or endpoint, because a story could always begin at an earlier stage or end at a later stage. Although some starting-points or endings are more natural from the standpoint of dramatic logic, there's a sense in which any place a storyteller breaks into the ongoing narrative of world history will be arbitrary. In our imagination, we could always go forward or backwards. 

Imagination is like a Möbius strip: twisting around while it continuously loops back on itself with no beginning or ending.  Or, if you prefer, the garden of forking paths.

One time I was driving on the freeway, after sunset, in homecoming traffic. Ahead of me, stretching into perspectival infinity, was a moving column of glowing red tail lights–like embers in the night. The car behind me sees the same thing. The car in front sees the same thing. In this continuous stream of cars, there is no absolute frame of reference. Every driver has a view. Every view is relative. You could break into the Möbius strip further up the street or further down the street. 

Every world history originates in the mind of God. Alternate narratives in God's infinite imagination. God makes a world by instantiating one of these stories in real time and space. 

But there's a mismatch between where a story actually takes place in time, and where it takes place in the imagination. To exist contingently, in real time and space, it must have an absolute beginning. But to exist in the mind, especially the infinite and timeless mind of God, there's no particular date when it happens, in relation to preceding or succeeding events. 

The real world is a story within a story. A sample of a perpetual narrative. 

Or consider a TV drama like The X-Files. Episodes are stories within the ongoing story of the series. 

On the one hand that has an overarching plot theme, involving the gov't conspiracy, aliens, hybrids, &c. That's an evolving storyline with a relative, fairly discernible chronology. Some episodes have to happen before other episodes in that respect.

On the other hand are stand-alone episodes that doesn't intersect with the overarching plot theme. When do these stories take place within the ongoing story? They're not datable in the sense that episodes are which develop the unfolding theme of the gov't conspiracy. That could happen pretty much anywhere, unlike other episodes that have a linear placement. 

In addition, although time's arrow flies in one direction, so that we only experience reality moving "forward"–into the future, it is psychologically possible see events run backwards, rather like watching a movie in reverse motion. Although it's rare, in some cases of life review, a person sees his life replay in reverse order. 

(By "life review," I mean viz. reports of mountain climbers who fall, but survive. Take the classic article by Albert Heim, interviewing mountain climbers who reported that experience. Heim himself had that experience, which got him interested in the topic.) 

It's like we have a camera on our heads recording everything when we're awake. 

(BTW, life review is not to be confused with heretical notion of past-life regression, a la reincarnation.)

1 comment:

  1. Hud Hudson defended his hypertime thesis convincingly in the Journal for Analytic Theology.