Time of the Ghost - Spoilers, questions on the ending

Jacob Proffitt Jacob at Proffitt.com
Thu Apr 5 20:41:54 EDT 2001


On Thu, 5 Apr 2001 17:49:29 +0100, Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk wrote:

>> You also tend to equate Monigan with the Christian ideal
>> of omnipotent/omniscient.  Monigan is neither.  Just because time runs side
>> by side for her doesn't make her all-knowing let alone all-powerful.  I like
>
>No.  Definitely not.  (You seem very confident in your assertions of how I
>think, BTW...)

Yeah.  I have that tendency.  I apologize for my misstatement of your
intent.  I've been trying to cut down on that kind of thing, but I slip
occasionally.

>Monigan is certainly not omnipotent, and nothing I said has any implication in
>that direction.
>
>Omniscient?  Well, my ideas could be interpreted that way, but I certainly
>didn't mean that.
>
>I'll try and explain again, in less haste this time:

I'll cut most of your explanation because I liked it a lot and its actually
pretty much how I consider the flow of the novel.  I particularly liked your
stream of cause and effect that didn't always follow the stream of time.

>Take the four-dimensional landscape again.  In a multiple-world model, there are
>further dimensions - call them Andwards/Eckwards (Lewis), or Ayewards/Naywards
>(Jones) [1].  Move along the fifth dimension, and you arrive in a different
>four-dimensional landscape.  All the time streams exist.
>
>If you take a single-world model, there is a four dimensional landscape again.
>And you want it to be able to change - one version was true then, the other
>version true now.  But you have a problem - "then" and "now" are only positions
>along the time axis in the four dimensional landscape.  So what you end up with
>is a composite - for the "then" part you take a slice out of the one
>four-dimensional landscape, and for the "now" component you take a slice out of
>another.  And you end up with a picture of what actually happened - as one might
>look back on it.  But as far as I'm concerned, that was what was actually going
>to happen anyway, the fact that it did being proof.

I understand.  I've been playing with a theory that works counter to yours
that I'll take the time here to explain, just for fun.  It's only a theory
and either (or neither) could be true.

I've wondered for some time if 'time' isn't so much the fourth dimension as
it is the *last* dimension.  Take a theoretical 2 dimensional being living
on a plane for example.  Now, that plane could exist in a universe that is
actually three dimensional, but the people on that plane could only perceive
two of them.  Now, if that plane is free to move in the third dimension,
things could happen that were hard to predict because three dimensional
phenomena interacted with the plane (a two-dimensional black hole would
simply be a hole in the plane where two dimensional objects were pulled off
the plane into the third dimension).  And since the movement in the third
dimension would happen over time, the third dimension would be considered a
function of time and two dimensional people could be forgiven for thinking
that time is the third dimension because it appears to them that it is.
What if we're just three dimensional beings trying to figure things out and
we've managed to conflate time, the last dimension, with all the other
higher dimensions just because we can't 'see' them?

>I have heard this argument extended to a total determinism, including a view
>that any free will is illusion.  I disagree with this.  As a Christian, I have
>no problem with a timeless _and_ omnipotent God providing feedback from free
>will into predestination, although I have heard this very emphatically denied,
>not least by the vicar of the church where I worship.

Okay.  I'm actually pretty close to this in my own beliefs in God.  God
(Christian for those wondering) is timeless and eternal.  Further, I believe
that God does know the future (duh, otherwise he would't call Prophets to
describe it).  But, what if, now, I don't believe this is true but I can
certainly toss it out for speculation, God isn't so much timeless, as he is
able to move about in the dimensions between ours and time.  Again, I don't
think this is actually the case, it's just interesting to posit.  If he were
a third dimensional being communicating with two dimensional beings (to use
my example above), he would naturally be able to see, predict, and assist
them because he could see more of their plane than they could.  He could,
for example, touch two points on the plane simultaneously appearing to be
two places at one time.  He could also send fire and brimstone to one point
of the plane without their knowing how he did it.  Or walk on an infirm two
dimensional substance (like water) by supporting himself on a third
dimensional structure.  I like to speculate about how things like that could
work, but I put all those disclaimers all over the place because while it's
an interesting theory, I want it clear that I *do* believe strongly in a
loving God who isn't all sham and trickery as this model would imply.

>I can't really think of a better way of describing what I mean than that I used
>last night: There is only the one future, but we build it.  The future is the
>result of our decisions, which we make freely - but we only get the one chance
>to decide.  We can never put the clock back - we don't change our decisions;
>when we make new ones to replace the old, we must still live with the
>consequences of the old ones.

I know what you mean, I understand.  But I'm not sure how it works.  I mean,
on the one hand, God has revealed the future to His prophets (if you
(plural, not Philip) don't believe that, that's okay, I'm arguing as if my
beliefs are true because I think they are) so He must know the future, which
would seem to imply that there is *one* future.  On the other we have free
will, meaning we choose our own actions (if not the consequences).  Which
implies that we make choices about our future meaning there are many
possible futures.  Reconciling those two beliefs is a tough line to walk and
I'm pretty much to the point where I'm content to let them be until I
receive further knowledge.  I believe both to be true, I just don't know how
to reconcile them.  At the same time, I don't like 'determinism' because
that cuts out half of the truth, just as I don't like putting theoretical
limits on God's knowledge of the future because that cuts out the other
half.

>For those on this list (all of you?) with what the Leicestershire Libraries'
>advertising campaign called "The Fiction Addiction" I would recommend "Time is
>the Simplest Thing" by Clifford D Simak.  He writes SF that comes very close and
>often oversteps the boundary with fantasy.  The view of time presented therein
>is not the same as mine, but it does present quite graphic images (is that a
>tautology?) of a fixed past and a not-yet-decided future.

If you've read Orson Scott Card's Alvin Maker series, he posits a similar
view of the future with one of the characters who is able to see potential
threads and assist others in heading in the direction they wish to go based
on the choices they make currently.  In this vein, God would simply know all
the threads and his prophesies would be either *large* events that all the
threads lead to or promises that He will intervene to make sure the future
hits the thread he prophesies (which is interesting and might actually be a
reconciliation of my above contradictions if you think about it).

>Perhaps a compromise could be reached by thinking of "potential futures" - of
>which Monigan might grab the wrong one - and a single "actual future" that will
>be selected from them.  We don't change actual futures, we select a potential
>future and it becomes actual.  I think my father would like that - he's very
>fond of "potency and act" arguments.  Hey!  He's certainly read TotG (I don't
>think he liked it much, though) so perhaps I'll bring up the subject and see if
>he does come up with that idea...

Again, Card's Alvin Maker picture could reconcile both by allowing God to
know the future (He knows all the strands and where He will intervene and he
makes promises based on that knowledge) and us to choose it as well.  It
makes it tough for us to time travel because that would introduce a feedback
loop, but then, we don't actually time-travel, do we?  That's why I liked
your description of TotG as a chain of cause and effect that doesn't
necessarily follow the stream of time.  It'd be a short, tightly contained
feedback loop with a couple of interesting branch points.

>This has turned out much longer than I expected.  Oh well.

Yeah.  Thanks for going into detail.  I appreciate it, and apologize again
for imputing more than was stated.

Jacob Proffitt
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