Time, Consciousness and Music

We often wonder if time-travel can actually exist. Or if it doesn’t exist per se, can we cause something to happen in the past by means of acting in the present? To put a fancy name to it, I think some call it “retrocausality”. There seems to be an audience in our heads that is able to experience time in all its glory; such as when we listen to a piece of music from beginning to end. We call this audience “consciousness” But, why does consciousness experiences such a thing as time? Is there a particular reason it is so important for existence and music?


In music, we composers often start writing the end of a piece, and create an intro or overture only once we are done composing everything else, accommodating such intro to the needs of the piece which already has a written finale. When we listen to a piece of music, we are often taken to past times, to our childhood, or maybe to feelings we had once felt but have now forgotten. If consciousness can experience this, and some folks dare say that only what is experienced by a conscious observer exists, why can’t we ACTUALLY travel back in time and experience these things?
Here’s what I think. Consciousness is fundamental to MOST reality, but in my view, is not all there is. There is a philosophical trend called “Idealism” that in summary says that everything there is, exists inside consciousness, and there is no actual reality other than that which is experienced by consciousness, including that which we normally call in our daily lives, the material world. That means, a table, a computer, a piano, none of that actually exists in its own right, but only exists in consciousness, because consciousness is all there is, and everything else is derived from it. I know, this sounds pretty crazy to some, or maybe pretty useless to others, but I think the discussion is not only interesting but central to all we do in our lives. Here’s where I disagree with most so-called “idealists”, I reiterate, Consciousness is pretty fundamental in relation to other things for sure, but it’s not all there is, in my view. This is where idealists and I differ., and I will try to explain a bit in the next chapters.

I think consciousness is only quasi-fundamental, because you need a universe with a so-called observer, a “non-isolationist property” (I know, a weird and confusing term that means to explain that whatever exists has the capacity to actually interact or perceive other elements around it, much like tennis ball would react to a racquet, or a video game character would react to a graphic on the screen of your phone ) , a receiver/transmitter or a subject, for ANYTHING to exist. A logical definition of “existence” requires an observer, an audience, or otherwise there is no such existence. Would you call an otherwise natural event such as a sunset “art” if there was no one to observe it? Whether you agree or not on a definition on art, most people would answer no. Same with reality, no consciousness, no reality.

It is not controversial to say that time is a requirement for the universe to be perceived, and therefore is only second in foundation to consciousness. Remember that based on what I have been saying, perception is a requirement for existence, and that came first, before even time itself. Why is time a requirement for time to be perceived? This is the same as trying to listen to a record while it’s paused: the music only starts once you hit play and time starts passing, regardless of it being a vinyl, cassette, cd or mp3.

Now, here’s where things get interesting: even before consciousness, one could argue that there is a realm of pure abstraction, pure logic and pure reductive reasoning, where “nothing” and “something” play a kind of ping-pong in purely logical and inevitable fashion, where you cannot have “nothing”, unless you have “something” or even everything! (infinity?).  The Tao describes it beautifully; a polarity from which everything emerges. Like a computer, a point in which when we reduce everything to its most minimum expression, we are left with the negative and the positive, yin and yang, silence and music, nothing and everything. A paradox that can only be resolved with existence itself!

That, my friends, is what I call, the Original Paradox.

There’s a lot that can be said about this Original Paradox, and I promise I will expand on it on future posts, since it’s central to what I am trying to say here. Unfortunately, it’s a long topic and I can’t possible cover it here completely. Let’s just say that not only from a semantic point of view, but also from a logical one, it’s impossible to define any of the concepts in the duality made up by “nothing/something”. They are inextricably related, and you cannot have one without the other. In order to have something, you need a concept of nothing, and in order to have nothing, you need something, otherwise there’s “nothing” for the subject of consciousness to experience. This is not a metaphor or a mere extrapolation; there is literally no way in which you can understand, define or present either concept without using it’s polar opposite. And to make matters more interesting, this “nothing” is always impossible to find empirically, because the moment you found it, it would become “something”. Some may argue this only applies to ideas, subjective thoughts, concepts, words, but I argue that from a reductive logic, this must apply to matter and all realms of reality as well. Again, I will expand more on the subject on future posts.

This original paradox creates the MOVEMENT and experience we call “the universe”.  The best illustration of this movement is time, as understood in physics as another dimension. It’s interesting to note that music also has movements, and it’s no coincidence they are called that. A movement is the expression of infinity playing, having fun with time itself. Or even better, like Alan Watts said: Music is not worked, it’s PLAYED. This is what this is all about, the universe plays itself through time, because consciousness requires it.

These dimensions, including time, are nothing but the expression of the original movement or resistance between the poles created by the above described Original Paradox; the true “Original Sin” that many traditions allure to, which “gave rise” to all we see, including math, feelings, evolution, DNA, cancer, music, male and female, the 80s, Game of Thrones, Trump, Buddha, Beethoven, Charles Manson and yes even variations of what you may call heaven or hell in whichever flavor you prefer it, literally or metaphorically.

As far as retrocausality is concerned, yes, it is plausible that such infinite paradox would involve retrocausality and even lack of free will under some definitions, but if we look closely, we are really asking the same question as: how can there be nothing without something? the answer is no, not just conceptually, but practically as well. There is no more digging to be done, this is a hard and original requirement for all else, no matter how hard this is to accept to our brains which have evolved to restrict the meanderings into infinity that you have ran to while reading my supposedly music blog (LOL).

The question: can our understanding of time allow for retrocausality? the answer is yes, because you cannot have condition z (end) without condition a (beginning in time of any given event), even if consciousness is unable to access or perceive condition (a) under most circumstances. Both questions are making reference to the same paradox: Is existence inevitable? and if so, where is this required “nothing” at? The answer is they both exist, and this perpetual paradox is what keeps things moving and existing. (a) needs to exist for (z) to exist as well, and due to the Original Paradox, both (a) and (z) where inevitable, whether that hurts our brains or not.

Music is a perfect illustration of this. The tempo measures the time and speed of the piece, each pitch is a particle that gives texture to the music, and the silence in between ( the “nothing” ) is what actually gives rise to music itself (or “something “or “everything” in nature). However, you need consciousness for it to actually be music, otherwise it doesn’t even exist under most definitions.

Accepting this paradox is naturally something we will resist, and even be scared of. Absolute nothingness is probably only as scary as absolute existence, and yet this is where reality is born, and time is only an essential property of it.

At the end of the day, only one thing matters: we are an audience listening to the grandest performance of the best symphony ever written: reality. And as such, we should enjoy it.

Leo.