Eternalism - A shattered rear view mirror on a rusted frame reflects green leaves.


Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to make photographs of a friend’s old panel truck. Eternalism is my first image from those photos; it’s of a lovely, round, cracked, rear view mirror on an delightfully rusty frame surrounded by green leaves. Looking at it, it’s rather marvelous the way you can see not only where you are, but also in front of you, and (through the mirror) behind you – all simultaneously. Taking that thought a step further, you might compare it to being in the present, while being able to also go into the past (remembering), and into the future (planning).

It’s fascinating to think about time. I love reading stories about time travel, and enjoy learning about theories that exist on the true nature of time. It’s both interesting and fun to explore the ideas and possibilities. Thinking about how all points in time seem to be represented in my picture led me to learning of Eternalism.

Eternalism is one philosophy of time that says all three points in time, past, present, and future, all exist at once, and which of these you perceive depends on the direction you look in. Eternalism considers time as another dimension where all points in time are equally valid frames of reference, or you might say, equally “real”. Past and future aren’t considered states of being, but directions. An article on this subject at Wikipedia says, “Whether some point in time is in the future or past is entirely dependent on which frame of reference you are using as a basis for observing it.”

Eternalism is a major theme in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. Remember the alien race, the Tralfamadorians? They have four dimensional sight, and can see all points in time simultaneously. The hero of the novel, Billy Pilgrim, lives his life out of linear sequence. This theme is also present in Alan Moore’s, The Watchmen. For Dr. Manhattan, past, present, and future events occur at the same time. He speaks of them all in the present tense.

Now as much as I like playing with these ideas, I believe living time in a linear fashion is sort of comforting. It might be a little too interesting to live your life out of sequence. On the other hand, maybe linear time is just what I know – at least for now. 😉

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