The Act of Counting is More Theory-Oriented Than Social Media

My understanding of atemporality, which of course, is my own, is explained in this example that just happened to me:

There is more to do with Atemporality proper in the act of counting to three than there is in the world of social media.

Let me explain.

Of course, social media is very fascinating to us and to the regular media as well, because it is new and popular. Which, it must be said, happens to be a very non-atemporal fascination, and has everything to do with an understanding of what is "now" and "current". But heaven forbid we take any of our theoretical cues from the media!

But social media actually is just another way that people talk to each other. Talk that would go on elsewhere, and in other forms, if social media did not exist. After all, we may be a new generation constantly connected, logged in, twittering, and refreshing, but we're still humans. We still think with the brain, feel with the senses, and have weird rushes of irrational passion with the endocrine system.

So we're going to have to go back to philosophy on this one. Philsophy, love it or hate it, has a bit of a leg up on social media theorists, because social media theorists have only been on Twitter since some time in '08-'09, whereas philosophers have been going at it for thousands of years. Again, we're going to have to break out of the fascination with what is new and hip. Sorry.

One philosopher who was really hip back in his day was Henri Bergson. He gave public lectures that EVERYBODY went to, until finally he got tired of it. He also won some Swedish dynamite award, which I know is kind of like the Oscars these days, and not really a big deal. Well, this should suffice for an intro: William James thought he was great. If that doesn't prove it, I don't know what does.

So Bergson had this concept of the consciousness of time, which he called duration. Basically, it means that although time is commonly broken up into units, such as years, days, minutes, and seconds, our experience of time is total, and quasi-unified by a multiplicity of moments, which we know as time, our sense of temporality.

I understand it like this. Counting is the activity of a mental, logical category of abstract thought, which separates conscious experience into ideal units, for easy, categorical thinking. We can't clock into work with a hippie-Bergsonian, "you owe me for, like, a really intense duration, man," so we clock in for eight standard hours. It makes it a hell of a lot easier to plant crops this way. But this doesn't mean that beneath counting, which as an ideal category works pretty well, there still isn't duration as the basis of our consciousness.

Now for the example:

How many markers are in this photo?

There are three. Which is true.

But we don't actually have to count them. We can sense that there are three. We did not say, "there are one, two, three markers", or "there are one plus one plus one equals three markers." There simply are three.

You may think that you are just so good at counting, that you counted so fast you didn't need to add it up consciously. Okay, well how about this:

How many times did you urinate last Wednesday?

You could try and remember the actual instances of urine elimination you took part in last Wednesday, but you probably wouldn't remember all of them. You could say "I don't know," but actually, that's not really the truth either. You do have some idea that you urinated at least a few times on Wednesday. You know the answer is not "zero". But if you said, "probably 5 or 7 times", then you were making a conjecture of counting based on your subjective recollection that Wednesday was a normal day, and you normally pee about that many times. It's as correct as anything. Who could disagree? If I spied on you, and actually counted the number of times you went to the bathroom, and I know the "actual truth", then I am asking you the wrong question. I should have asked you, "did you count the number of times you pissed last Wednesday?" and then you would say, "no, and you're real weird for watching me go to the bathroom all the time." But I did didn't ask that. I asked you to make a subjective recollection, and you did, correctly, by not actually counting.

With the markers, its the same. You did not actually count three markers. You saw a trinity--a single multiplicity consisting of things that could be counted into three. Three is one of the numbers humans can very easily see. One, Two, Three, and Five are also very easy to see (all prime numbers, by no small coincidence. Whole number are whole by basis of their definition, and prime numbers are prime on the basis of their uniqueness within division of whole numbers. Five divides into two 2.5's, but we don't count that way. We have called Five prime on purpose, because by definition, we want it to be significant). You are not counting them, you are seeing a Singular, a Pair (or a Double or Couple or Twins, if they are the "same" thing), a Trinity, and a Hand. When Protestant's get on Catholics case about the holy trinity not being monotheistic, they are just pulling a mind game, counting the number of times Catholics go to the bathroom. Of course the trinity is a single god. Do you ever see two of the trinity just hanging out without the third? You may talk about God, as in the one and only, or the Savior, as in the One and True, but counting the trinity as three separate things is like looking at the three points of a scalene triangle and telling someone there are really three different triangles. There is one triangle, that can be counted as three angles. There is one trinity, that would not be a trinity if you could not potentially count the separate elements, and it would not be a trinity if they were not all present at once. At ONCE. One.

So beliving Catholics are actually more atemporal than social media as well, because they are consistently experiencing the ideal category of countable units simultaneously as they experience the unity of the multiplicity, i.e. duration. Why do you think so many religions describe their preconscious trances as "a sensation of one-ness"? Because "one" is not simply a number, it is also an adjective! It is a human way of feeling. The meaning of wholeness is the root of duration, our conscious experience of all that we know to exist. All elements must linger in the consciousness together or would not be sensible either as one or as separate things.

Now imagine the markers are "yesterday", "today", and "tomorrow". Past, present, and future. So how many different ways of experiencing time are there? Are we "remembering", "being in the moment", or "speculating about the future"? There are not three aspects of time, there is time, which is a trinity in that we can count these aspects differently. We need to count the difference between past and future so that action, i.e. motion, makes sense. Motion, of course, is distance over time. What is distance? Another way of counting, but of space. We need to break time and space into number lines so we can understand changing intensities of time and space. We need to pin time to a number line of past, present, and future. But that doesn't mean that we experience time in those ways, a priori. The trinity still is a multiplicity, and time is only our consciousness of time.

How about this: what colors are the markers? They are red, blue, and green. But you are viewing the images of the markers on a computer screen, which is made of tiny colored fragments of red, blue, and green. So each marker must be red, blue, AND green so that you can see one as red, one as blue, and one as green. The space in the image that is not marker (ce n'est pas un marker?) divides the difference between a blue and green and red marker in your perception, and so you perceive it as an image of three different things, when you are in actuality looking at a screen of tiny colored lights. Your perception is "tricked" by its categorical thinking into seeing objects, but we are all glad that it does. We need it to be tricked into categorical thinking. But at the same time, we shouldn't forget what it is we are "really" looking at.

Social media may give us opportunity to see time as a flow of duration, which we dip into consciously to sample with our perception only on occasion, and we rarely remember exactly what we see. But as I hoped to show here, we can also experience the truth of duration in something as simple as counting to three. Of course, social media claims to have a bigger pay off, with unique social consequences for connecting a wide swath of the population with the pure experience of duration. Maybe. But in the meantime, each of us is capable of tripping out by counting our fingers, or perhaps more interestingly, beginning to think about history and our collective futures as no more than an extension of the consciousness of duration we are all experiencing right now, as we sit, twittering away in front of computer screens.

The really interesting part is when you begin to realize that it is not possible to form a complete memory. Our duration is not a thing of one-ness. It is full of holes, rather than being whole. The atemporal consciousness begins when we start to think of time as an imperfect. It is a multiplicity missing many parts. It is a network, with more strands breaking every hour. Almost all of our contacts aren't online.

So where does history go, when we realize we can't remember yesterday any better than we can remember tomorrow?

The savants who can find incredibly large prime numbers in their head should be given libraries full of history books. Ask them to "find the primes". See what sort of theories they come up with.

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