I listened to ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’ podcast on Radio 4 this week and the topic was ‘Does time exist?’ I like the Infinite Monkey Cage because it makes me think which I suppose is exactly the point. This episode really grabbed my attention.
The guests were Dr, Fay Dowker, a professor in quantum gravity at Imperial College, Dr Carlo Rovelli, another professor of quantum gravity, and Mark Gatiss, writer and actor. I cannot do justice to the science and complex physics that Fay Dowker and Carlo Rovelli very eloquently debated, for that you will need to listen to the podcast.
I found the topic intriguing as a student of gestalt psychotherapy when it entered the realms of some of the most complex questions, for which there are only theories and hypothesis. In a (I cannot possibly get it right nor do it justice) nutshell, the 2 scientists were discussing whether the past is known, and therefore the future must also be known i.e. The universe is always symmetrical, or whether the future is yet to be known, is there a multiverse (apparently not, they agreed on this point), and is there such a thing as free will (it depends what you mean by free will). It was at this point that Fay Dowker began to talk about feelings, and subjectivity, and how subjective experience, whilst not yet considered empirical evidence, is telling us something. They agreed there is a blurring between physics, and philosophy, and they agreed that this is best studied by psychologists and neuroscientists. As a trainee gestalt psychotherapist, I think that this evidence is telling us something, is exactly the point.
The podcast made me ponder whether time is a chronological ‘thing’ is or isn’t true, or whether the future is known, or to be determined, or whether the past exists at the same time as now. This is for the physicists to determine. However, I think that the only real evidence, the only manifestation of the past, or the future, of ‘time passing’ is the emotions, feelings, thoughts, assumptions, in me, right here, right now and in this moment. And as a therapist I am seeing in front of me, the only evidence there is. The person I am with, right here and right now. Because the past is gone, and the future cant (yet) be seen.
I believe that there is more unknown about the universe than we could possibly imagine, and physicists are grappling with some of the most fundamental human questions. Mark Gatiss makes this point on the programme, that some of these questions you could imagine being talked about by ancient Greek philosophers. How we live with our present moment and heal the wounds that stop us living fully are all there, in this moment now.
‘Does time exist’ is a huge and fascinating question. As a gestalt therapist, I am fascinated by the part of the universe that is living and breathing and contained in us right now. Perhaps here are some clues to life's biggest questions.