Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

'Til the End of Time

Retirement provides more than ample time for contemplation and rumination.  Maybe too much time to wrestle with existential questions for which we’ll never find answers - concepts like “time” itself. 

My buddy Dakota and I walk daily in the woods.  It’s quiet in the forest and provides an ideal environment for mulling over questions of existence, the vastness of the universe, and the insignificance of our tiny planet in that context, among other things.

Creek running through the ranch
  Given our human intellectual limitations, it’s futile to try to use reason to find answers to the many haunting questions that bubble to the surface. But I find that it’s a good exercise for putting my life in perspective.

Let’s look at a couple of things about “time” without considering theological implications, if that’s possible.  Some scientists say that hypothetically the original configuration of the universe may have been a state of infinite density where all mass, energy, space, and time are contained in a single mathematical point with no dimensions.  This, of course, would be prior to the theoretical “Big Bang,” when the universe is said to have sprung into existence. 

In 1929 Edwin Hubble discovered that light from distant galaxies shifts toward the red end of the spectrum. Based on the “Doppler Shift” concept, this means that the universe is expanding.  It indicates that the universe had a beginning.  This notion flies in the face of Bertrand Russell’s assertion that the universe is just “there” and that’s “all there is to it.” Russell was an atheist, so that seems like an easy out.

Part of the Ranch
It’s been said that if this expansion had been different by even one part in a million million, no life would have been possible. 

According to Immanuel Kant a beginning of time is inconceivable.  Just think about it.  It is inconceivable. The obvious question pops up, “What happened before that?”  “Was there anything before that?”

It’s like that with space.  If there’s an end to space, let’s say a brick wall, what’s on the other side of the wall?  You can go nuts thinking about this stuff.

Albert Einstein said that according to the theory of relativity, if mass and motion disappeared from the universe there would no longer be space and time.  So in essence, time began with the creation of the universe; not before it.  This was understood long before Einstein by Philo Judaeus in 10 or 20 B.C. and later by Augustine. It’s not a new concept.  There was no “time” before creation or the big bang or however the whole thing began.

Could our universe be floating in a sea of timelessness?  Is our universe an anomaly?  Does time only pertain to our universe?  Remember, without matter and motion there is no time or space.  Is there anything outside of our universe? 
View from the trail

When you think of the word “Eternity” does that mean an extension of time - that time continues on forever?  I don’t think so.  It may mean that time ceases to exist. 
Here’s how I see it.  Picture a lone helium-filled balloon floating high in the air.  Imagine that time, space, matter, and motion only exist inside that balloon. Imagine our entire universe inside that balloon.  Imagine that the vast space outside of that balloon is “timelessness.”  Our universe may be afloat in timelessness.  That’s just a metaphor I use to simplify this concept in my mind.

And if you believe in God, He must exist outside of those parameters; outside of that balloon with full access inside, but unconfined by the space-time continuum in which we are confined. 

Just something to think about the next time you walk in the woods. 


  1. Boy that makes my head hurt! Just imagining existence within the balloon makes me wonder more about why and what there is outside the balloon?

    Ok, any way, wanted to tell you that you were once again immortalized (speaking of timelessness) in the Los Gatos Times last month wherein they talked about 'Pietro', and the fact that you wrote it for him. Gave a good plug for the book too. In case you're wondering how I can know what's in the LGT, my brother Craig sent me the article from Los Gatos.

  2. Malcolm -
    That's the big question...what's outside the balloon.

    Thank Craig for keeping us both posted on Los Gatos stuff. Pete (Pietro) just re-ordered more books from the printer, so they must be selling.

  3. Malcolm - I also agree with you that there is enough stuff to worry about inside the balloon. That may be a reason to "peek out."

    1. What if the balloon pops?

      Obviously, I have no idea of what I speak!!!!!

      Just wanted to be on this post!

  4. Ralph, do you have Pete's book for sale?

  5. Ed -

    The "balloon" may pop, but you and I won't hear it.

    Regarding Pete's book - I have a couple of copies and can send you one. Pete is selling them for $15.00. If you make out a check to Pete Denevi and send it to me, I'll cover the postage cost for you. I'm trying to help Pete.