On the Philosophy of Time

Eternalism is the philosophical approach to the realities of time. “Time” in the manner through how it passes and that every point in time is considered real. By using this philosophy, eternalism considers the past and the future as real and valid as the present. They are not states of being so much as directions in time. Putting it simply, this philosophy posits that there is no actual passage of time in the conventional sense, but that both are dependent on the frame of reference you are using when observing either one of them. It looks at space-time as unchanging four dimensional “block” of time reference instead of the more accepted three-dimensional approach to the passage of time.

Then there is the theory of presentism, which considers the approach that what only occurs in the present exists. Events, incidents, people, and places that took place in the past really do exist, but not in the present. Eternalism holds that same concept for future events. In theory, eternalists believe that future events do exist just as past events exist, but in that direction of time, and not in the current present. Many prominent Buddhists subscribe to the presentist theory, among them, Fyodor Shcherbatskoy, a scholar who believed “Everything past is unreal, everything future is unreal, everything imagined, absent, mental… is unreal. Ultimately real is only the present moment of physical efficiency”.

Scherbatskoy isn’t the only one who had some interesting and important ideas about time. His quote is just one of many that exist, in the past and present, to try and explain the very nature of the passing and ravages of time. But what is it about time that has us so enthralled with it. Does it force us to confront our own mortality, ticking closer with every minute, every day? Maybe we’re all just too busy to care and all we know about time is the deadlines we must meet, with work, with our bills, with our loved ones, with ourselves.

Time is marked by many milestones and some endure better than others. We all choose to mark the passing of time in our own way, but one of the most conventional and abiding ways to make our impression on time is through building something. The things we build are the mark we make on time, putting our own unique memorial in the world as it defines each of us. It can be something as small as a shed or with the grandiose size of the tallest skyscraper, we build things for necessity and utility but everything we make has our own individual stamp upon it. As time passes, the quality of the things we make is challenged and those of us who do it right are long remembered. It may not always be easy to accomplish but it doesn’t take much to get started. The right tools are all you need and a desire to create something that wasn’t there before you. It takes planning and a little bit of courage. But in the end you, and all of us, have the ability to put our own exclusive mark on the passage of time and leave something behind when your time on Earth has ended. The things you make will live on and what better reason is there to build something? Eternalism and presentism may be at odds with one another but the things we make will live on in the past, the present, and the future.