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The Three Dimensions of Time

I’ve heard about theories of multidimensionality and that time is one of the many dimensions. In sci-fi stories, characters talk about past, present and future as being one. There are stories that time is more mutable than we think it is. Theorists say we experience time only as a progression forward but that there may be dimensions of time we cannot sense. I think there are three perfectly sensible dimensions of time.

In order to understand the three dimensions of time, we have to understand its sibling, space. We can perceive time in three dimensions, because we have managed to break it down to smaller pieces. We have the linear first dimension, the shape making second dimension and the deeper third dimension that we live in. It’s important that I emphasize we never live a first or second dimensional spatial experience.

We can only live in three dimensions. In fact, our only “first dimensional” experience is through movement. We perceive our movement as highly flexible with an ability to move forward and backward, side to side or even up and down. However, these are relative to other spatial phenomenon that we construct. If you put a round ball in space and moved it around, it would only move forward. There should be no faces on it to determine what “side to side” would be or “up and down”. It would just move from here to there.

Time has similar properties. The dimensions of time are pieces of a multidimensional experience. It may be hard to sense similar kinds of motion through time, because we don’t have the references necessary to sense that kind of motion. It may also be a little more unique having different properties but still maintaining multidimensionality.

The first dimension of time is rhythm or cycle. We understand what rhythm is. It’s what makes us capable of making music. It’s what allowed us to make clocks and calendars, both of which come from different kinds of rhythms or cycles. It is the most basic unit of time. Without a cycle, we could not come up with a way to measure time.

The second dimension of time is timing or coincidence. We notice when things happen at the same time. We also learn what it means to have things happen at the same time. I can only take a train if I get on it at the time it is near me and available to board. I only bother to eat when I am hungry and I know the food will get rid of the discomfort of hunger. I know I should only make certain political jokes when certain people are around and avoid them when other people are around that might not find my comments humorous. This dimension is critical to how we experience the third and final dimension.

The third dimension of time is timeline or causality. We know some things cause other things to happen and that if some of those things didn’t happen, the other things might not happen too. This is the dimension that many believe is the one dimension of time that we all experience. It is what gives us a past, present and future sense of time. This exists thanks to memories that tell us what we did and dreams that tell us what we want to do. We may only be moving forward, but truthfully, it depends on how we perceive forward and backward, side to side and up and down.

So there they are: time, timing and timeline as three dimensions. Maybe you will start to notice all three yourself and think about how you can move in different ways through time just like you do through space. Maybe we will become time travelers in ways we never could have expected until we shifted our perception of time into something like how we perceive space.

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