The aliens who had the 4th dimension figured out
In the famous book “Slaughterhouse Five” the main character claims to have been abducted by aliens who live on a planet called Tralfamadore. Most significantly, these aliens are capable of living in the fourth dimension. This dimension gives these aliens the ability to navigate not only through space, but also through time.
The character explains, “The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just the way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.”
Basically, in the 4th dimension, time doesn’t exist. Every moment is equal to every other moment, and every moment is permanent. It always happened, it’s always happening, and “when” it occurred holds little importance.
Taking our mindset into the 4th Dimension
Just because we can’t jump in and out of time doesn’t mean that we can’t have a 4th dimensional mindset in the way we treat our moments. This mindset lets us stand from afar and view our mountain range of moments, full of people and progress and failure and triumph.
Comparatively, a 3rd-dimensional person is actually on the mountain, not looking back to what he’s already climbed, but instead viewing the past as a pile of rocks that he is now on top of. The rocks behind and below him hold little importance. They’ve served their purpose in bringing him to his present point. There is certainly a focus and accomplishment associated with this view, but the view is also more limited and empty.
Take relationships as an example. Most of the important people in my life in fifth grade, my best friends at school, my teachers, my church leaders, and even certain extended family members, are no longer a part of my life. I don’t communicate with most of them besides the occasional “like” on facebook. I don’t live near them or physically see them. I’ve even forgotten some of their names. In the 3rd dimension those people have become rocks that I now stand on top of. But in the 4th dimension, in those fifth grade moments the relationships are still strong. The relationships back then will always be valuable and worthwhile and beautiful. They will always be visitable moments, pieces of my mountain range viewable from my point of view. In the 4th dimension, I am still living in those moments. I will always be fifth grade Travis, just as I am now 28 year old Travis, and just as in some tangible moment I will (hopefully) be 98 year old Travis.
Looking at your life from a 4th dimensional point of view adds a tangible tinge of happiness to your memories. Rather than a 3rd dimensional “I’m sad that that memory is over” or “it’s too bad that I never talk to that friend anymore” or even “it’s tragic that he passed away”, we can look at memories and say “I’m so glad that that happened and will forever be a part of my permanent set of moments.”
Achieving the 4th dimension
One of the main obstacles of living a “4th dimensional” life is our failing memories. Memories lose details, and our minds often change a memory to complete the narrative from the pieces we remember. If our cognitive, spatial, and sensory memories and recall were perfect we’d essentially be able to time travel, jumping in and out of any moment of our lives.
Modern technology has made it easier to “time travel” with digital pictures, videos, the internet, and social media interactions now complementing millennia-old writing and journaling. Our ability to visit a different moment in time is becoming easier and easier. Maybe in 100 years the 4th dimension will become a reality.
But achieving it doesn’t mean you need to always be nostalgically pouring over old pictures and video. Nostalgia doesn’t exist for a 4th dimensional being. The 4th dimension is a mindset of appreciation and wonder, not of nostalgia and sadness.
The people we bring along
Maybe in each of us there is a longing to live in a 4th dimensional way. Maybe that’s why we cling to family so much – because they have witnessed the majority of our moments. It’s easiest to transport to 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years ago with them since they share those same memories. With someone you just met it’s nearly impossible to “time travel” with them to the past.
Maybe that’s also why we so readily cling to forward-thinking “soulmates” or best friends. Together we are able to lay the bricks of a 4th dimensional future, transcending time by seeing and living in moments before they’ve even happened.
So go out and build your beautiful mountain range and do a little happy dance as you look on. Your moments will always exist, and that’s something to celebrate.