Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Try repeating a group of numbers to yourself—out loud or silently. 1,2,4,8,16,32,64 continually. Now, as you are repeating these numbers, without stopping, continue reading. No. Don’t stop counting. Keep counting. Keep reading. You can multitask? Right?
No, of course not. But wait. Continually multiplying numbers by 2 perhaps a task that requires significant mental resources. Could we perhaps repeat just one number, the number two, over and over, and continue to read this sentence? Try it.
I might be able to convince myself that I am both repeating the number 2 and reading—simultaneously—but I suspect that I am in fact only mastering an illusion in the style of human beat box Rhazel, which he loves to showcase in a now famous tune called “If your mother only knew.”
Rhazel sings a verse. Then vocally produces a beat. Then he announces, like a proud magician, that he will sing the words and produce the beat--at the same time. The crowd listens dumbfounded. Rhazel’s gleeful question: “You don’t believe me?” He then gives away the trick behind his magic, halving the tempo to reveal that he in fact has interweaved the beat and the words. The beat and the words are not in fact being produced simultaneously but rather in alternating fashion. Rhazel of course knows that even once revealed, the illusion rests just on the edge of incredible. So he dives right back in. “The words, the beat, AND THE BASS—at the same time!”
Time, I venture, is only a measure of the succession of ideas, one after another (I of course am not the first one to venture this, nor will I be the last).

What then?

If we can figure out how to repeat the number 2 while reading these words, then we—might—stop time. Or perhaps not simply stop time. Time might cease to exist for us.