Time and the Lie of Continuity

Time, in a strict sense, isn’t real.

It can’t be weighed, measured with a ruler, or poked with a stick. Time is an imaginary construct that we humans have invented to make sense of things. Imaginary constructs are all around us. They can be very trustworthy, and they make difficult problems easier. Some common imaginary constructs are mathematics, freedom, and politics.

Events happen to us in sequence, and sometimes one event is the cause of another one, so we trick ourselves into thinking that time is a thing.

It isn’t.

Time does not exist, but clocks do.

If we destroyed every clock in the world, for some odd reason such as a sudden and universal hatred of clocks leading to a worldwide genocide of timepieces, would we still believe in time?

Probably, but maybe not.

It’s likely that we would resurrect the idea of time, because time is a nifty concept.

If time serves any useful purpose, it is as a measure of decay.

All things wind down and break in time. Clocks do it, socks do it, and someday the heat death of the universe that we are so rapidly rushing towards will finally catch up with us. Until then, thank goodness for popcorn.

Mortal beings experiencing the slow failure of their bodily machinery always believe in and have an acute perception of time. This is why immortals always live outside of time.

When you think beyond this temporal framework, you realize that things don’t happen like you think. If there was no time, would we perceive all things at once? Would they be in order? Is time literally the only thing keeping everything from happening all at once?

Time is a measure of decay.

This is nowhere more evident than in the case of a writer and his book.

Whenever I write a book, it starts out great. Then, the more I write, it gets worse. Then I go back to the beginning and realize what I thought was good isn’t so hot after all. Then I try to fix it, making everything, of course, much much worse.

Naturally, I don’t write books in sequence. I start at the end, fiddle around in the middle, engineer a plot twist, wonder how the book should start, and compile a list of what’s in my characters’ pockets at any given moment.

This gives rise to a knotty problem.

How do I compile the chapters?

In order of quality? Good Heavens, no. There wouldn’t be a book at all, to begin with, and this is a discussion about where to begin if at all.

In order of when and how it was written? Better, but who am I to judge what’s good and what’s bad? Isn’t my perception of quality rather subjective?

In order of narrative sequence? Don’t be absurd.

Thus, in the interests of fairness and equality, I’m arranging the chapters of my next book in the only order that makes sense: alphabetically.

If you don’t understand that, you should get on the phone and berate your kindergarten teacher, or, possibly your parents. -BW


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