You Are an Event

Einstein was a physicist, but the things he discovered about matter were so fundamental that no scientist or philosopher has been able to think the same way since. Einstein said that there was no matter at all. No time. No space. There were only events. Let me try to explain this to you. Think of a meeting. A meeting is when people get together to decide something. When two people meet on the street. An automobile crash is also a meeting.

Now what is a meeting? It is something that happens in time and space. Just think about that. A meeting is always some time. And it is always some place. And it is always some thing. But you can't lift up a meeting. You can't burn a meeting. Obviously a meeting is an event, an event in time-space. To see how similar these two ideas, a meeting, and an event in time-space are, think about this. Someone asks where you're going. You say, "To a meeting of the Sub-Committee." And that's a perfectly good answer. Now ask me where I'm going. "I'm going to Room 303 of the Greshim Building at 2:00 this afternoon." And that's a perfectly good answer too. It may be an even better answer because it imparts more information. In this case, the word "meeting" is equivalent to "Room 303 of the Greshim Building at 2:00 this afternoon." Not an hour earlier. Then Room 303 was a study hall. Not the next room down, because that's an office. Every single meeting in the world is just as precisely and definitively and uniquely defined by its location in time-space.

The trouble is, all things are events just like meetings. Think about a piece of land and the air above it. What is it? Last year it was an empty field. This year it's a hundred-bed nursing home. Fifty years from now it will be an old crumbly building, a ghost house. A hundred years from now it may be an empty field again. To say what that "space" is, without saying what "time" it is, is meaningless. Of course, most of the time we know where we are and don't have to say that. But if you're traveling and someone asks you where you live, you have to know when he means. "Now I live at the Excelsior; but my real home is in Oshkosh." Where you live is an event in time-space too. Since most of the time we know where and when we are, we aren't used to thinking of things as time-space events. When I now say that you are an event, you're startled and jump back and stare at me like I'm crazy. But I'm not. You are an event.

One of the simple ways to understand this is to try to take away "time" or "space" and see if you're still there. If you are a real thing, independent of "space" and "time," you should be able to take away "space" and still exist, or you should be able to take away "time" and still exist. Try it.

It's an interesting mental exercise, but with no solution. No matter how hard you think, you are still taking up "time" and occupying "space." In fact, all you really are is a particular location in time-space. A unique location in time-space to be sure, but no less an event for all your uniqueness.

-- Denis Wood, "I Don't Want to, but I Will: The Genesis of Geographic Knowledge: A Real-Time Developmental Study of Adolescent Images of Novel Environments" (Ph.D. dissertation, geography, Clark University, 1973), pp.13-14.

August

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August is a dramatic month. Humidity is a form of madness. Writing is a form of suicide. The temptation to talk like this, in short clips, is overwhelming. Short sentences are like raindrops: loud, splashy, and desirable.

-- Andre Codrescu, A Craving for Swan (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1986), 33.