On Self, Time, and Space

(Epistemic status:  Completely ignores physical realities and also physics; mostly a framing device but also speculation)

There is a concept I have been trying to taste lately, that “Perception is everything, nothing is real.”  I can see some discrete steps on this path of varying levels of attainability.  This essay will first go over perception of time, perception of space, and possible effects of altering the perceptions of these things.

There’s a feeling I have sometimes, a sensation that I am drifting towards actions my future self would take, or perhaps having a strong feeling about the course of events, with specific milestones built up by models of previous experience.  This plays into a narrative I have about mental states and time being looser than the external expression of time as a thing.  I feel like I can go further with this, in a sense, and reject the concept of linear time in the sense of the self entirely.  This ties a bit into Timeless Decision Theory where if you are the kind of person who does X now, you are the kind of person who will do X in the future.  The concept which I feel expands on this is that if you are the kind of person who does X in the future and you can model that self, you have all the ingredients necessary to become that person now.  This doesn’t actually follow in a strict logical fashion from the above but it does follow intuitively.  As such, I posit the following:  Any predictable, modelable future self can be your current self, regardless of what time you are currently experiencing.

This is the weakest form of uncoupling perception from time and within reason for someone with sufficient cognitoflexibility and mindfulness.  What it comes down to is that, even if you can’t physically be the person you will be six months from now, a year from now, five years from now, your model likely includes the (hopefully desirable) habits that they have developed to become that person, and you can be absorbed into those habits.  I think it is also possible to slip into a past self to benefit from a certain state of mind and impose it on your current situation.  That’s probably even more trivial than modeling a proper future self.  In the end, though this entire concept is a framing device.

The next question, however, is what if it doesn’t just have to be a framing device.  While you might be able to gain the habits of a future self, you can’t gain their memories, the privileged information gained by experiencing linearly.  I think the natural next step in breaking time perception is being able to simulate those memories in high fidelity.  I personally think that would be rather difficult, so another approach would be to put yourself in a situation where all your memories for the foreseeable time frame that you want to skip towards are predictable to a high degree of accuracy.  Perhaps others have more fun ideas about this but to create such a static reality would probably require a high degree of isolation, routine, and minimal interaction with novelty.  This begins to sound similar to pop culture depictions of monastic, Spartan lifestyles.  I suspect that at a certain meditative, routine level, time starts to slip backwards and forwards and the self one is experiencing isn’t always clearly in a given time frame.  Unfortunately, for the purposes of someone who would like to gain something practical from temporal fluidity, this is not really a particularly practical approach (though I will note that someone in such an existence likely has a perspective that is getting value, likely spiritual, from this experience.)  At this level of perceptual disconnect, there seem to be dangers from such a high level of isolation.  Even if one, perhaps, has a virtual reality machine that can compress years of predicted experience into a short time frame and then one goes out and has these experiences, the way one views reality is so distorted that it becomes increasingly impossible to model accurately.  I don’t know what steps are between the weak form of temporal fluidity and this ultimate form of temporal fluidity.

Another thing I am considering is the possibility of uncoupling one’s perception from space.  The weak form of this would be vividly withdrawing from liminal spaces.  If you don’t experience a train ride, then you’ve effectively teleported from one place to another.  If you’ve also broken time perception, you didn’t even spend any time doing this.  Perhaps observers state that time and space did pass, and you moved through them, but can it said to be true?  I feel like there’s a sufficiently broken mental framework that would allow someone to feel as if having the ability to get to someplace means they’re already there if they want to be.  If that narrative gains power and observers can be convinced that this is what is happening, it seems like it becomes an exceptionally strong, higher level interaction with the world.  This is…a very difficult concept for me to approach because temporal fluidity is not that hard for me to model, as time is mostly a construct.  Spatial fluidity seems absolutely insane though, and I can’t begin to model that.  I think the key once again falls to avoiding observers.  The image of masterful spatial fluidity I have is someone more or less catatonic in a bare room, unobserved, wherever they want to be.  Combined with temporal fluidity, I feel as if this person is either in a lotus eater machine of their own making or they have cracked reality in such a way that they are subtly interacting with it in more or less impossible ways.

The above is more or less incoherent.  These aren’t concepts I have words for and I think attempting to follow these conceptual spaces to their natural conclusion is likely to lead to high levels of dissociation, psychosis, and self-imprisonment.  I begin to understand why the concept of the lotus-eater machine exists as a danger of only partial detachment from reality and why the rejection of desire is also an important part of Buddhist belief (…I think, please feel free to call me on that because I don’t really have direct exposure to those systems.)  The concept of the power inherent to not experiencing time or space is the sort of thing that would lead one to generate vivid fantasies of potency while being completely impotent and wasting away.  To not experience time and space and not have any desire to…use that experience to an end seems inherent to a strange sort of peace.  My conclusion is that experiments in this direction cannot be undergone safely without a more detached self in the first place and I think I will stop at the framing device level of this concept.  If other people have experience with or intuitions about temporal or spatial fluidity, please tell me about it.

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