On time and consciousness and the insight that came to me through flying insects

in philosophy •  last year

One night long ago when I used to work the night shift, I was sitting and looking out the window toward a bright lamp attached to the roof of our building. It had a metal lampshade that protected the light from above and focused the beam toward the pavement outside. It was summer and rather warm outside and flying bugs were everywhere. They were particularly attracted to that bright light and were constantly swarming around it.

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(Google Images - Wikimedia Commons)

I noticed that many of them were giant gnats and June bugs. A thunderstorm had swung in and it began to rain. That rain began to increase until it was torrential with giant raindrops falling from the sky. The rain became very thick.

It reminded me once when I was a teen (summer of 1976)... I was outside in a torrential rainstorm doing my job as a paperboy and the rain was so thick that I was having trouble breathing. It was actually a scary moment because it felt like I was drowning because the water was so thick in the atmosphere. Such thickness in rain is rare and it didn't last long (about 15 seconds to where I felt like I could at least breathe again).

This rain wasn't quite that hard, but I was struck by the fact that the bugs continued to fly outside of the safety of the metal lampshade as if nothing was going on. Here were these giant projectiles coming down out of the sky at 120 mph that were about the same size as a refrigerator relative to the body size of these bugs and not one of them was struck and knocked to the pavement unconscious or dead.

I began to wonder how they did this. Did they have lightning fast reflexes? How did they manage to avoid all those falling projectiles that could have killed on contact? If they could avoid something small coming at them at 120 mph and originating from a dark sky, why couldn't they avoid my windshield driving down the highway at half that speed in broad daylight?

Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 4.15.55 PM.png
(Google Images - Wikimedia Commons)

Then it occurred to me... many of these bugs have life spans no longer than a week or a month. Imagine humans having to condense their entire lifespan of about 70 years into about 7 days. From birth, grade school, graduation, marriage, middle age and eventually death, all inside of a week.

How much time is between time? How fast is fast? I began to think that maybe that raindrop falling at 120 mph was really falling at about the rate of 1 inch a second relative to "bug consciousness". Consciousness involves scale and relationship between Same and Other (Plato).

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