Home > Uncategorized > The riddle of fluid points of reference

The riddle of fluid points of reference

Couple weeks ago, @laermer posed the riddle: “When you go from here to there, why are you still here and not there?”

I’m still thinking about it. The riddle isn’t actually the question… it’s the answer.

“Here,” like “now,” is a fluid point of reference. It changes meaning more quickly than we can really keep up with it. That’s why, by the time you say “now” – actually, by the time you think “now” – it no longer means what you meant it to mean.

What I mean by saying that this answer is a riddle is that it opens up a can of wormy questions.

“Now” is, ostensibly, the boundary between the past and the future. But by the time we perceive “now,” it’s already over. Consider: it takes less than 150 milliseconds for you to visually perceive the world around you. In other words, the time difference between your eyes (as sensory organs) receiving information and you actually being cognizant of it is – 150 ms.

By the time you perceive your surroundings, they’ve already changed. So in a sense, human beings are irretrievably trapped in the past. We’ll never know  – indeed, are physically incapable of knowing – what’s going on around us “here and now.”

(So the statement “He died before he even knew what hit him” can be literally correct.)

So you thought you had a good handle on what’s currently up? Don’t be disappointed. You didn’t for even more reasons. Future post: you have no idea what you’re looking at.

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