The Non-Linearity of Time

Seeing may be believing, but that does not mean we must go on in complete ignorance of what else might be.

“It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another on, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone, it is gone forever” (27)

Hence, Billy’s ability to travel back in time.

Einstein’s theory of relativity states that “there’s no conceptual distinction between the past and future”, and “all space and time is just there in some four-dimensional structure” (Ken Wharton & Huw Price, May 19, 2016). This is essentially what Vonnegut explains in Slaughterhouse-Five, through the Tralfamadorians.

“a straight line is not the shortest distance between two points” (A Wrinkle in Time, 88)

Reading this now, I’m reminded of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time when Charles Wallace explains to Meg the five dimensions, the fourth of which is Einstein’s theory. Though this is a very brief moment, the actual concept they have of tesseracts in A Wrinkle in Time, of being able to essentially take a short-cut through space to get from point A to point B, connects to the theory that time is not linear. Because isn’t becoming unstuck in time virtually teleporting through time? What if time travel were the sixth dimension, in which instead of teleporting through space, it was time, and we’re taking that short-cut from one moment to another? And like space, forwards and backwards is all subjective, depending on where you’re standing. And like space, all time exists at once.

“‘it would be quite a long walk for him if he had to walk straight across.’ Swiftly, Mrs Who brought her hands … together. ‘Now, you see … he would be there without taking that long trip. That is how we travel.'” (A Wrinkle in Time, 86)

Our thinking of time is completely subjective, because we see time as linear, and so we believe it is. Likewise, since we do not regularly become unstuck in time ourselves, have not yet found a way to travel backwards and forwards through time, the very idea of it is difficult – at best – to understand. Though it is fictional, works like Slaughterhouse-Five and A Wrinkle in Time allow us to expand our minds to what could potentially be truth, even if it is beyond our current viewpoint.


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