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A reader writes … By Jack V. Adler

July 06, 2001

The ancients believed and some still do that time has no beginning and no end. If this is true, it is logical to believe it is circular or cyclical.

Aristotle said, "even time itself is thought to be a circle." The Greeks thought of time as circular; as did the Babylonians, Romans, Indians, Chinese, Aztecs, Mayas and the Jews as well.

The book of Ecclesiastes attributed to Solomon, a very wise man, says, "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be: and that which is done is that which shall be done and there is no new thing under the sun. It has been already of old time which was before us there is no remembrance of former things." Even today the scientific world cannot be sure whether the cyclical or linear conception of time is more valid.

If time is cyclical or circular, it would be as though we are traveling the rim of a great circle, and whichever way we travel we will end up where we started and will have been nowhere. The point we left is receding and approaching at the same time at the same speed and we don't know where that is.


One step from the point of departure and it is in the past and the future approaches. We don't look for the present because we have it with us always. There would be no present if this were not so. If we release our grip on the present we fall into the past or possibly the future. Who can tell? If we are traveling in a circle from the past, the past becomes the future.

The present is merely a hinge on the gate of existence that can swing either way; one way to the past and the other way to the past; though present is a dividing point, you may travel either direction therefrom and either direction will leave the past and the opposite will be the future, as there can be no future before there is a past because all that exists is the present with nothing to measure that called time. There can be neither past nor future without the present. The hinge of present swings the gate of existence; without it the gate would be closed forever and time would not be. Time cannot exist without measure and one cannot measure without a starting point. The present is that point, but halfway around the circle past and future being equidistant from the point of departure and cannot be discerned and become one with the present. At this point which direction to travel decides the direction of past and future.

Is eternity a gargantuan circle or cycle or a hoop of history rolling through the cosmic dust of the universe repeating itself over and over. coming from nowhere and going nowhere, a relic of past and future ever present.

Examining recent history (that is all recorded history) it would seem time is indeed cyclical as evidenced by the rise and fall of civilizations. They seem to progress well until they reach a certain point where past and future can no longer be discerned as a valid option for progress, and they stagnate in the present where they disintegrate and consume themselves, leaving only crumbling ruins as evidence that they did at one time exist as a viable force on earth. However, no one of the fallen civilizations should be construed as a completed cycle as regards time, but rather the entire collection begun thousands of years ago and enduring into an indefinite future where some cataclysmic force may end it and start another.

However, if time is linear, due to the curvature of space, time would conceivably return to its approximate point of beginning, but not to the recent past or foreseeable future; you won't meet yourself coming back.

There have been many peoples and civilizations expunged from earth's surface, leaving no enduring evidence of their existence, no written recorded history. Any evidence that they have existed at all is found only by archaeologists or paleontologists excavating prehistoric sites, bringing to light certain conclusions with more theory and controversy than cold hard facts.

Something or some form of intelligent life did exist, but where did they go and why? How often in the past has there been new beginnings when civilizations have been wiped out by natural catastrophes, by disease or the violence of wars and ambition leaving only a few fragile seeds of survival?

Richard Morris, the noted theoretical physicist, says it is not surprising that we cannot be sure whether cyclical or the linear conception of time is more valid. It appears that the more one examines the concept of time, the more unanswered questions there are.

JACK V. ADLER is an El Centro resident.

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