Think about it: if events are determined, then it is very much as if everything has already happened. What then, is the point of time? Present and future become oddly superfluous -- inexplicable, really. There can be no "point" to anything, because there is nothing toward which to point.
Einstein agreed that the existence of the now is just a mirage: he "completely rejected the separation we experience as the moment of now. He believed there is no true division between past and future, there is rather a single existence."
Upon the death of a dear friend, Einstein wrote the family and assured them that his death "was of no consequence, 'for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.'"
Well, that's comforting. Why bother with priests and psychologists when one can consult with a psychophysicist or physicotherapist? But as we all know, when it comes to common sense, Albert was no Einstein.
This illustrates the larger fallacy of trying to explain away the concrete human world for some abstract and experience-distance one. This is what all ideologies do, and unfortunately, it is possible for religion to yield to the ideological temptation.
Indeed, this is one reason why I would say Christianity is a cure for religion, for the simple reason that it is impossible -- or should be, anyway -- to reduce a person to an ideology. If you place person at the top, then any abstraction must be in the service of concrete personhood, not vice versa.
(And we might parenthetically add that Jews are covered here by the I AM; by way of contrast, Allah is the YOU DO OR ELSE!, while Buddhism is the YOU AREN'T AND NEITHER AM I. The New Age god is ANYTHING GOES because I AM S/H/IT.)
Now, none of this means that I am right. It only means that people who disagree with me are fools or knaves.
I am not a literal Whiteheadian, but rather, just plunder what I need from him. And one of his central points is that time matters, not just in an abstract sense, but quite concretely, in the manner in which we experience it. For him, our experience of time is something of an analogue of the very structure of the cosmos, for the cosmos is a process of coming into being (whatever that is) and fading into the past (whatever that is) -- just like our experience of time.
In the book for which the blog was named ten years ago this month, I sheepishly suggested that our otherwise inexplicable love of music has to do with the fact that the very structure of music mirrors the process of reality; it discloses the truth of things. In fact, one of the rejected titles for the book was The Cosmic Suite.
If time is an illusion, it is as if we could comprehend, say, a symphony, by taking all its notes -- which are extended in time -- and compressing them into one big noise, not unlike the final chord of A Day in the Life. Fans of Beatles lore will recall that it was produced by hammering an E chord simultaneously on four keyboards. Except that, with no time, there wouldn't even be the forty second decay that follows.
Now, just because existence is a melody, that doesn't mean the composer has completely fixed the notes, nor that we take no part in its composition. In fact, I would suggest that while the chords are indeed fixed, the existence of freedom allows us a degree of leeway as to how we choose to proceed through the "chordal space" (one might say that time is the space between the cosmic chords).
Indeed, we are so free that we can, if we so desire, ignore the chords altogether, as Ornette Coleman purports to do in his harmolodic approach.
Now, I happen to appreciate Coleman, but only because his music is a kind of "comment" on ordinary music. If his were the only kind of music, then I don't think I'd enjoy music very much. I suppose it's like, say, a horror film or thrill ride, which no one would want to experience constantly. It is frankly why I check out MSNBC once in awhile: for the momentary discordant horror.
About those cosmic chords: what are they? And how do we hear them? Well, you could say they are "archetypes," but that has too much of a Jungian connotation. How about just human nature? Which I suppose leads us back to the book we're discussing, A Theological Anthropology. Man always develops through time, right? Remember adolescence? Childhood? Infancy? What was that all about? For starters, it was an unending process of change. But what -- or who -- was changing? And "toward" whom?
I suppose that's like hearing a melody and trying to figure out what it is that is changing, when it is the nature of a melody to change. This suggests that we are not notes, but rather, unique melodies. Or, each of us takes a unique path through the chordal space of time. We are each a mirror of the Song Supreme.
You could even say that God himself is one endless song with three chords: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And as one chap expressed it, Three Chords Good.
Out of time! This tune will resume tomorrow...