Sunday, September 15, 2013

Moments in Time and Consciousness

Attended the symphony today.  Instrumental music does not hold my attention as well as a play -- especially Shakespeare -- would.  I enjoyed the program but without words (lyrics), it didn't pin down my thoughts.  So they just wandered.

I wondered about exactly why I could not focus on the assembly of notes as I would on an assembly of words.  That made me think about just how these notes add up to music anyway.  The basic length of time in a conscious moment must be long enough for a series of notes to be assembled in the mind into a bit of music.  If we only perceived note by note -- or word by word for that matter -- we'd never make sense of anything.  The basic unit of conscious perception apparently is 2-3 seconds. Our now is this long.  Short term memory -- what is held in consciousness readily available as context for each moment -- is some 10-15 seconds.  We can perceive a much denser reality in each moment than simply one "thing."  Events can enter our consciousness that linger only some 40 milliseconds.  Indeed, each note is made up from a number of vibrations in the air and a symphony has lots of instruments making each note.  So each conscious moment is a highly sampled chunk of passing time.  The point is, however, not this but the apparent fact that our consciousness grasps this moment in its entirety.  It spans the stream of quantized time.  (The smallest unit of time is the Planck time, 5.39x10 to the -44th seconds.)  Consciousness seems to exist outside the flow of time.  We do not observe, think, exist in time but somehow alongside it.  The "ghost" in our machine provides a stage large enough for an assembly of actors to play their parts so that we can experience each moment of the world.


RnKrm said...

Are these individual asemblies of actors you mentions the Plato's shadows on the cave wall, glimpses of reality if only through a haze?

Gerard Gallucci said...

Not the shadows but the Forms, the numbers underlying the cosmos that we perceive - when we do - through the quantum haze of reality.