If I only had more time… Perhaps if I give up sleeping—sleeping is after all so bourgeois. We can all sleep when we’re dead—as the saying goes. There are things to do, people to see, places to go. Bottom line: there is just not enough time for everything.
Most of us fantasize about life with a 30 hour day or a 4 hour work week, living to 100 or 1000 or just plain time traveling. My personal favorite would be to put the whole world on pause at will for variable amounts of time so I could get everything done while everyone else was frozen.
Yes I grew up watching too much Sci-Fi.
The same definitely holds true for space. Just can’t get enough of it. After filling my man-cave with stuff—books mostly—I extended our home library throughout the house. With all of the wall-space consumed, there doesn’t seem to be much if any room left over for my wife’s pictures. As you might imagine this presents a problem. This is without mentioning the real crisis regarding where to store the kids’ bikes (or even the kids for that matter).
Whether it is the house or the yard, the town or the country, we are all looking to expand at one time or another. Civilization likes to spread out. With the exploding population, there are, of course, those who would argue that good old spaceship earth is getting cramped. Time to set up a moon colony.
To distill the problem: we are both spatially and temporally challenged. The limits that space and time put upon us anchor our reality, but they also weigh us down. Being non-elective features of the natural world, we can either accept them as barriers or try to transcend them.
If only I could shrink all my stuff in such a way as to be able carry it around in my pocket? If only I could bi-locate? If only I could fast forward through the really monotonous activities that occupy so much of my day? If only….
Wait a second! Aren’t we kinda, sorta already doing these things? In a pre-digital universe, the contents of my Iphone would require a truck or three dozen camels to lug around. The 55 bookcases and 7000 books in my house really do fit in my pocket once I dematerialize them into electronic form—check. Filling cabinet of papers—check. Case of music CD’s—check. My wife’s pictures—check. Several hundred randomly placed sticky notes—check. They all fit in the smart phone which fits in my pocket. And if we stay the course with the miniaturization of these technologies, then it is just a matter of time before everything in my pocket will fit inside of a red blood cell, according to futurist techno-prophet Ray Kurzweil.
What about being two or more places at once? It’s called telepresence. You can sign up with Cisco or Skype or a host of other service providers. Much of modern technology has affected the ‘death of distance’ or the ‘extensions of man’ in the wordsofmedia philosopher Marshall McLuhan. Tele-scopes, tele-phones, tele-visions are but a few of the inventions that have collapsed distances and abolished our metrics of time and space. For the juggernaut of Deconstruction theory, Jacques Derrida, they may all be lumped under the rubric of tele-technologies.
How about the need for speed? Covering more ground in less time, ties space and time together as they should be according to Einstein. Travel is probably the best example here. Take a trip 200 years ago, and 11 mph was about the cap on transportation (unless you could somehow borrow Gandalf’s horse Shadowfax). Next time you are snowed in at the airport in New York trying to get to LA with a 12 hour delay, try reminding yourself that this used to be a 6 month journey fraught with danger and no in-flight movies.
So what does it all mean being able to reduce what was once a half a year journey to just a few hours? What are the consequences of having computers that can process in a minute a task that would take the best computers a mere decade ago 5000 years to grind through?
It means that space and time are expanding. Because we can fit so much more into so much less space, meter by meter has taken on a different meaning. So too with all of our time standards: a minute is not a minute is not a minute. I could send a message by snail mail and you might get it tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or next week but I can ‘instantly’ send you (and countless others simultaneously) the musings of my mind or critical information via the web.
Even many physical objects are being digitalized and replicated on demand. Want a toy to play with—download the file and send it to your 3D printer and have it rapidly constructed layer by layer. When you are finished playing with it, you can melt the plastic back down, save the file and print it out another day. No more clutter. This technology already exists and is becoming more affordable.
This brings us around to the question of where in the Book of Genesis do we find the creation of space and time? We read about the creation of heavens and the earth, light, some weird thing called a firmament, but no specific reference to space-time. In Kabbalah, the whole installation of creation was described in a ‘plug and play’ fashion but it came accompanied with a zip file containing the full contents of the original source code. Our decryption algorithm will require some references to the original Hebrew and the multivalent allusions contained therein.
Everyone is familiar with the opening words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In the Hebrew original it reads somewhat differently. The first word is Bereshit: “in the beginning”. The second word reads: bara “created” and the third Elokim : God (the spelling and pronunciation have modified in accordance with Jewish tradition). Elokim is one of 10 basic names for the Divine in the Torah. This name refers to the immanent manifestation of Divinity or God as nature.
Contained within the spectrum of manifestations of Divinity is a self-limiting capacity which gives rise to the natural world. So the first aspect of creation is the manifestation of this sense of God enclothed within nature which is tantamount to the creation of nature itself. The two words together might be read as “created nature”. Thus the first verse might be reread as: “In the beginning (there was) created (a manifestation of Divinity that we identify as) nature.
The Kabbalists point out, that while the whole the opening of Genesis is about creating nature (this sense is fueled in part by the repetition of the name Elokim 32 times as if to say that nature is structured along 32 pathways), nonetheless the first appearance of the name Elokim, or God as nature, would seem to form the critical underpinnings or abstract base of the nature world. When treated as mathematical notation, the words bara Elokim equal 289 (bara = 203 + Elokim = 86). This equates with the words makom v’ zeman “space and time” where makom (space) 186 + v’ (‘and’ or a grammatical conjunction linking ‘space‘ with ‘time’) 6 + zeman (time) 103.
Thus space and time are the primal components within the creation of nature or the Divinity enclothed within nature. At the end of the week, with the Sabbath described in Genesis 2:3 we find the expression bara Elokim la’asot, which sometimes rendered in translation as “God created to make.” Again the name for God employed here means nature. The expression more accurately reads “…created nature to make.” The word la’asot, “to make” is read as “to rectify” by the Sages of the Talmud. This implies that nature itself requires rectification or enhancement.
Nature is incomplete. There remains something more to be done. Innovating within nature or seeing nature itself evolve, is at the heart of the Jewish view that we live in a participatory universe. Specifically, this means that the conception and reality of space and time as the foundation of the creation of nature, need to expand beyond their original limits. The whole creative process, which begins with space and time, needs to continue to ‘make’ space and time through perpetual expansion.
Today most physicists concede that we at living in an expanding universe. Since Einstein officially married space and time together, we may frame this expansion as the expansion of the fabric of space-time itself. Modern technological society is echoing this fundamental dynamic of the cosmos. For the cosmos and us, we always overcoming our limitations or experiencing an ongoing exodus from Egypt (in that ‘Egypt’ or mitzrayim means “limitations” in Hebrew).
Another striking example brought in Kabbalah has to do with a hyper-literal expansion of the word for space (makom) itself, wherein each of its letters has an expanded form corresponding to the way in which the letter might be read or articulated. This method of filling out letters according to their pronunciation is like seeing one or more letters pregnant within the solitary written character. Moreover, these pregnant letters are ‘born’ only when we sound out the names of each of the letters.
For example: makom is spelled מקום (the letters are called mem מ kuf ק vav ו mem ם [*note the second mem is the final form that comes at the end of a word in Hebrew]. By themselves the letters translate into numbers as 40 + 100 + 6 + 40 = 186.
However, to say mem and write the letter according to it’s name sounds m’eh’m we need to write mem as a double mem מם which is now the equivalent of 40 + 40 or 80.
Kuf would similarly be expanded from (k) ק to קוף (k-u-f). These letters kuf vav fei are 100 + 6 + 80 = 186.
Next up vav which has several possibilities for its spelling. In this case it follows the form vav vav or (v’a’v) וו or 6 + 6.
Finally mem is mem mem (מם) or 40 + 40 like we had before.
So now with our new expanded total we get 80 + 186 + 12 + 80 = 358. 358 is a most important number in Kabbalah with its most important association being with the word Moshiach (משיח = 358) “the Messiah.” This connection reinforces the notion that the ultimate redemption and transformation of reality is intimately bound up with the expansion of space.
According to tradition, the chief general in the army of Moshiach is called Avner (אבנר) whose name equals 253. Amazingly 253 is the equivalent of the word zaman (זמן) or time when it is written in expanded form: zayin (ז) becomes (z’ay’in) זין or 67, mem is (m’eh’m) מם as above or 80 and (nun) נון or 106. In total, 253. The idea embodied in this form of letter manipulation is the hyper literal expansion of time just like the previous example with space. The chief general who expands the territory of Moshiach (who himself represents the expansion of space) is Avner who embodies the concept of the expansion of time. Time is the principle agent therefore for expanding space.
Finally, with these two combined forces, the married expansion of space-time as the fundamental enhancement of the natural world, can be seen to be brought together in yet another mathematical allusion. The addition of the two expansions—expanded space 358 or Moshiach and expanded time 253 or Avner—amounts to 611 which equals the word Torah (תורה) itself. The entire project of the Torah and one of its greatest secrets is therefore the liberation from natural limits through the expansion of space and time.