The older I get, the more I understand Vonnegut.
By ObviousTroll (Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 08:12:56 AM EST) life, sucks (all tags)
I wish he was right, I wish we really did live our lives like Slaughterhouse Five.

Inside: Remember how I said I had a diary brewing inside me? This is that diary.

I'm not normal. I know that. I've always known that. I care about things that other people don't care about, and I don't care about things that they do care about.

One of the things I've always fretted about is time. I don't mean wasting time, having enough time, making time or even doing time. I mean TIME - that bastard millstone that doth grind us all into dust. I remember being aware of time's arrow when I was only five or six years old - of realizing that no matter how great the Christmas, nor how fun the vacation, it would never, ever, happen again. A present, once opened, can never be unopened - and a great grandparent, dying in a hospital bed is never going to make you another Sunday lunch.

Ever since that first realization, I've kept my eye out for books on time, theories of time travel, anything that might blunt time's arrow. And I came to the conclusion that no one, no physicist, no science fiction author understood time any better than I did when I was six. It doesn't matter whether you think time is a dimension, or an illusory result of entropy - that still doesn't explain why - why can't I go back? Why should time move forward with such implacable irreversibility?

Because it's tearing me apart.

Vonnegut was right. So, for that matter, was Allen Moore. In a sense - in a very real sense - I really am still six years old, rummaging for toys in my basement, looking at those pale green stucco'ed walls. I really am still eleven, helping my father build the house that we would live in, and jumping off the roof into the dirt pile at every opportunity. I really am still 14, delivering news papers at 4 in the morning, every morning, staring at the night sky and hugging the solitude to me like a blanket. And more than anything, I'm still 18, holding court over my end of Drexel's cafeteria, telling fortunes for complete strangers, telling jokes to people who keep coming back and struggling, struggling with the idea that some of these people are friends that they care about me and that I should try to nurture those connections and not casually destroy them.

I remember my utter (and still unending) astonishment when I went after a girl and I won. I remember when she told me she was moving in with me. I remember the shock of graduation, of visiting "old" friends but feeling like a guillotine had cut us apart.

I remember the day someone finally convinced me - after months of talking - to actually put on the clown make up and to go down to the frickin' Spectrum, for God's sake, and actually and deliberately behave like a complete idiot in front of tens of thousands of people.

I remember the end of that day when, as 10 raggedy tailed clowns schlepped out to the parking lot, a group of kids ran up to me to say good bye.

I remember sitting around that house I built when I was eleven, wondering how and why death had become an all-you-can-eat buffet - an endless torrent of casseroles and grieving people.

Pieces of me, strung along the past, like beads on a string - but while I can see them, I cannot feel them. I carefully restore them but still they fade and crumble before my eyes.

The older I get, the more I understand Vonnegut. | 22 comments (22 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
The Funny Thing About Vonnegut... by CheeseburgerBrown (4.00 / 2) #1 Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 09:20:27 AM EST
...is that he tries to kill himself surprisingly often for someone with access to charming versions of the truth.

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski.
How's the new little one doing? by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #3 Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 09:37:45 AM EST
And Littlestar?

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
Yeah, well, Hemmingway's been on my mind, too. by ObviousTroll (2.00 / 0) #5 Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 09:40:08 AM EST
Our Father who art in Nada,
Nada be thy name.

not that it's seriously in my mind, just that I've found a certain sympathy for that point of view, if you see what I mean.

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Dear lord, I just discovered a valid reason for... by ObviousTroll (2.00 / 0) #10 Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 12:07:04 PM EST
suicide - my 8 year old daughter has found the book of poems I wrote in college.

Did I mention that every single poem is named for a girl I struck out with?

[ Parent ]
this was a pretty good diary by tps12 (4.00 / 1) #2 Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 09:37:28 AM EST
Until you got to the clown part. Any guesses how many readers will have trouble sleeping tonight...

Maybe we'll watch IT tonight by georgeha (4.00 / 2) #4 Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 09:39:35 AM EST
Tim Curry is always so much fun.

[ Parent ]
I liked him better as Frank N. Furter by ObviousTroll (4.00 / 1) #8 Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 09:58:20 AM EST
No (sweet) Transvestites

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Why do you hate Clownish-Americans? by DesiredUsername (4.00 / 3) #9 Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 10:08:48 AM EST
Celebrate our large-shoed, small-carred, rubber-nosed heritage.

---
Now accepting suggestions for a new sigline
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Growing old beats the hell out of by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #6 Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 09:47:10 AM EST
dying young, and I'd rather go to their funerals than have them going to mine.

I remember being 11, back in 1976. Before cable, home computers, and videogames. I still like playing in the woods.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

oh, hell, yeah. by ObviousTroll (4.00 / 1) #7 Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 09:56:32 AM EST
I wouldn't miss what's coming next for anything - it just severely torques my wing nuts that what was disappears so thoroughly.

For example, hearing my mom's mom in the way my son talks, but never being able to introduce them to each other...

[ Parent ]
this is a front mother-fucking page diary, dawg. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #11 Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 04:04:16 PM EST
don't let the fuckin' haterz tell you different.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

yeah but by martingale (2.00 / 0) #12 Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 06:17:54 PM EST
Just _what_ is it that bothers you about time? I sort of get that you feel that time produces some kind of regret, but _what_ is the actual issue? Do you feel trapped? What is your favourite time-space model, and why is it inadequate?
--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$
*blink* *blink* by ObviousTroll (2.00 / 0) #13 Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 07:01:26 PM EST
I despise any model of time that doesn't let me live Christmas morning, 1971 over again.

Oh, and woodstock. It would be cool to go to woodstock.

Actually, I'd be impressed if you could give me any model of time that wasn't ultimately just hand waving.

Theories of time-as-dimension fail to explain why time is different from the other dimensions, and why it seems unidirectional. Theories of time-as-an-expression-of-entropy fail to explain, well, anything, really.

[ Parent ]
come again by martingale (2.00 / 0) #14 Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 07:46:27 PM EST
damn husi ate my comment. Here goes again.
Theories of time-as-dimension fail to explain why time is different from the other dimensions, and why it seems unidirectional. Theories of time-as-an-expression-of-entropy fail to explain, well, anything, really.
Let's say you have a car whose steering wheel is fixed so it can only go forward in a straight line. If it can't turn, is that the fault of the road or the fault of the car? Why should there be something unique with the time dimension and not something going on with people instead?

If you like the special relativistic spacetime model, then there's also nothing different about the time dimension. There's the light cone, which is like a very tall energy mountain. Nothing stops you from going back to 1971 if you can afford it. All you have to do is cross the light cone, and doing so will use up all the energy you have. You can cross the cone from any direction you like, just pay the man and do it.

Now it so happens that if you don't have the energy funds for time travel, then you can't go. Time travel is for mega-super-hyper rich folks only who like to run real fast, and you're more of a poor lazy sort in comparison. Still that doesn't make the time dimension special, rather it points the problem at you.

Is this making sense?
--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

[ Parent ]
Dude; by ObviousTroll (2.00 / 0) #15 Sat Mar 04, 2006 at 03:32:43 AM EST
I really think you missed the point of my diary. Here's a hint: debating theories of space time is secondary to the root, emotional, issue.

But even in that case, claiming that it's people's fault and not time's that people can't move through time hardly explains why people perceive time this way. In addition, talking about "leaving the light cone" is nonsensical.

1. It means traveling faster than the speed of light.
2. Travel - motion - is, itself, a function of time, meaning that defining time in terms of motion is circular.
3. It doesn't explain why the "light cone" spreads out along the time axis and not some other axis.
4. It doesn't explain why such light cones all point in the same direction.
So I'm pretty sure your claim of "all you have to do" is bogus.

[ Parent ]
nobutyesbutno by martingale (2.00 / 0) #20 Sat Mar 04, 2006 at 03:19:12 PM EST
debating theories of space time is secondary to the root, emotional, issue.
Yeah, whence my question. Just _what_ is the emotional issue. I don't see it. What _bothers_ you? Having one life only? What's it got to do with time?

In addition, talking about "leaving the light cone" is nonsensical. 1. It means traveling faster than the speed of light. 2. Travel - motion - is, itself, a function of time, meaning that defining time in terms of motion is circular. 3. It doesn't explain why the "light cone" spreads out along the time axis and not some other axis. 4. It doesn't explain why such light cones all point in the same direction.
No, no and no.

1. Special relativity is not against that.

2. Time being a dimension in the model, it doesn't function as a natural parameter for any path. So motion is not a function of _time_ but a function of arc length. That's the whole point of the special relativistic model. Without that "downgrading" of the meaning of time, you just have the Newtonian model with mathematical complications.

3. The light cone is precisely the region where the arc length (which is the natural parameter for motion) can be mapped as a function of the time dimension to simulate Newtonian physics, ie "define motion as a function of time".

It isn't special, there are cones in every space dimension too. Then you can define motion as a function of distance to some object and time can go "forward" or "backward" at will.

The light cone has _practical_ importance: it allows us to write down Newtonian physics and obtain relativistic physics with a few cosmetic changes in the symbols. So it's the part of relativistic theory which is closest to the old, well tested, Newtonian approach. But it's like taking the Earth and calling the north pole "North". In the end, it's just a label for a part of something bigger.

4. As I said, the light cone is the region where people are allowed to confuse the old Newtonian idea of "motion in time" with the relativistic motion. There are two cones, the one going in the increasing time dimension, and the one going in the opposite (decreasing) time dimension.

Don't confuse a convenient Newtonian coordinate patch with the full spacetime object.

By analogy, if you stay within the northern hemisphere, it's easy to pretend the earth is flat. As you get closer to the equator, you have to add bigger and bigger corrections to keep pretending that the hemisphere is say a flat disc centered at the north pole. Once you cross the equator, you're in serious trouble with the disc idea. Does that make the northern hemisphere special?
--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

[ Parent ]
C, P, T symmetry violations? by Dr H0ffm4n (2.00 / 0) #21 Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 02:37:07 AM EST
Time is special and different from spacial dimensions.

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I always wanted to write a novel by calla (2.00 / 0) #16 Sat Mar 04, 2006 at 09:45:13 AM EST
that featured time travel.

"In and Out of Time". The title is as far as I got.

I'm much further along than you! by ObviousTroll (4.00 / 1) #17 Sat Mar 04, 2006 at 11:35:09 AM EST
I've got the open sentences for at least half a dozen books, ranging from murder mysteries to fantasies to hard-sci-fi all worked out in my head.

One of these days I'm bound to actually write one of them.

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yeah by calla (2.00 / 0) #18 Sat Mar 04, 2006 at 12:14:52 PM EST
I even got my title wrong. "Moving In and Out of Time"

There's a good reason why I'm not a writer. I'm crappy with words.

Have you ever been a member of a writer's group? Seems like they could help motivate you to finish something.

[ Parent ]
Nah. I've got too many hobbies as it is. by ObviousTroll (4.00 / 1) #19 Sat Mar 04, 2006 at 02:16:47 PM EST
Between astronomy, photography and raising children I don't have the time or the solitude that writing requires.

Besides, I'd be published, get on Oprah, and then someone would post on /. the poems I wrote in college - and I'd be laughed right out of the country..

;-)

[ Parent ]
Motivation? by Dr H0ffm4n (4.00 / 1) #22 Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 02:38:42 AM EST
He just doesn't have the time...

[ Parent ]
The older I get, the more I understand Vonnegut. | 22 comments (22 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback