Here today, gone tomorrow

Ed Smith
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The pessimist’s view of the future.

We have everybody from Stephen Harper to Randy Simms telling us everything is going to be all right just as long as we vote for the one and listen to the other.

I plan to tune out the first —always have — and tune in the other — usually do. So here is a pessimist view of the future. Or, tomorrow the glass is half-full.

Most of us look at the future as if it were a long-distance off, like 2019, the year the Church of the Woolly Haired Sacrificial Lambs celebrates its 25th anniversary. Or 2024, the year the Church of the Woolly Haired Sacrificial Lambs celebrates its 30th anniversary.

We don’t seem to realize that the future is now, which is a bit of a contradiction in terms. There’s a word for that but I can’t remember what it is and I don’t have time to go looking for it. Oh yes, oxymoron.

“Where is the future?” I asked a friend that question not very long ago.

“Oh,” she waved her arm airily towards some mythical spot a light year or two away.

“Somewhere out there.

“Your future is on top of you,” I said, sort of offhandedly. She looked at me strangely.

“What do you mean?”

I explained to her that one’s future is only a millisecond away. That while you are cruising at the moment, two or three of those milliseconds from now you could be dead. In short, you have no future. None of us do. Depending on your perspective and your circumstance, that could be a good or a bad thing.

“The future is now,” I read somewhere the other day. “The future is here. The future is upon us.”

Catchy little words, but leave us pause a moment and consider the implications. If that’s true, the future must be on a direct collision course with the present. And to think the world’s leading scientists are concerned about the collisions of teutonic plates in the planet’s crust and the resulting Great Earthquake on the west coast.

If the present is now, as is arguably the case, and the future is now, as some people are postulating, the now is going to be, or already is depending on your perspective, getting to be rather crowded. You may want to read that sentence again. I did, and it sounds stupid.

The future and the present are meeting in the now. The present and the future are merging. The present and the future are one.

Before you dismiss this as the left-field called to sleep go to sleep ramblings of some idiot writer trying to fill out a column, understand this is the stuff that’s being promoted by your futurists and scientists who study the nature of time and its effect upon humans. I’m not saying this is something you as a reader of “The view” think about while you’re watching the hockey game (did you see that juniors game between the Swedes and the Russians? Wow!)

But consider the implications. If the present is now and the future is now, in what part of time do we exist?

Only one possible answer: in the past. But where is the past? Back in the 20th century? Uh uhh. The past is what existed a millisecond or so ago. The only difference between the past and the future is that you’re fairly certain you existed in the past, otherwise you wouldn’t be where you are now, in the present.

At this point in our conversation my friend turned rather glassy eyed and left. Happily, she wasn’t driving.

But consider this: the distance between the past and the future may be only a scant millisecond. It may even be a nanosecond, although I’m not sure if that’s greater or smaller than a millisecond. To get technical about it, the elapsed time between the past and the future may be practically nonexistent.

That means the present is practically nonexistent. To carry this to its logical conclusion, this means we exist only for a fraction of a measurable unit of time. Now here is the scary and infinitely weird conclusion to all this.

I have just proved that in a very practical sense we do not exist at all.

This was bound to happen, you know. Everyone agrees that time is moving faster and faster. Even the wisest amongst us, those who are the oldest, will testify to that. It used to be that time moved very slowly for the elderly. All they did was sit there and rock, if they were lucky enough to have a rocking chair.

Hour after hour, day after day moved inexorably into the next and they waited, more or less patiently, as one old fellow said, “for Jesus to come.”

Now time passes so quickly that between a forward rock and a backward rock someone could have discovered the cure for dying. If they’re not careful they could miss it. Obviously, it is our perception of time that’s speeded up, or at least I think that's the case. We have to ask Einstein whether or not perception has anything to do with it.

One thing is sure, if time zips along any faster it will not only catch up with our present but will encroach on our past. The conclusion is inescapable: our future would be all in our past.

Which is something I’ve been saying about the Montréal Canadiens for quite a while.

Extra! Extra!

The three people who replied with a winning answer to my “find the truth” column in November are Pat Power, Pat Goulding and Colin Burke.

Several other people had the correct answer but were just that much later getting it in. The fact is that all three are correct — yes, Gerry, even including my brief affair with Dixie Carter. Thank you to everyone who took part in the fun.

Ed Smith lives in Springdale. His email address is

Organizations: Church of the Woolly Haired Sacrificial Lambs, Montréal Canadiens

Geographic location: Springdale

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