I took an intro. Philosophy class. We touched on a lot: everything from free will, morals, dualism, consciousness, to space and time. For our final assignment we were given to option to write a formal augmentative essay, a dialogue, or a short story. Whatever we chose, it had to be Philosophical (naturally). I wrote “We Are all Loaves of Space-Time Bread” to explain space-time worms (or space-time bread). One of the readings for the class, when we approached topics on space-time, was David Velleman’s paper “So it Goes”; his paper greatly influenced my first-person fictional story.
My story was given an A+; and it was later nominated (by my Philosophy instructor) for a Student Writer Award. It won silver for creative writing. I’m unsure how many papers/stories get nominated each year, moreover, my story was scored blindly by a panel of PhD wielding intellectuals at Red Deer College.
I arrive at a strange farmer’s market. In this market I encounter a psychedelic Philosopher selling loaves of bread to pay for his student loans. My dialogue with this strange man convinces me that time’s passing is an illusion and we are all loaves of eternal space-time bread.
“Welcome to the fourth dimension where objects perdure rather than endure, where objects have temporal parts, and where objects are never wholly present at one moment in time!”
The sales pitch from the psychedelic Philosopher has my attention. I stand before his kiosk. He reaches into a bread bag and removes a single slice of bread. He places the slice on a demonstration table. “The slice of bread on the table is you at this instance in space and time,” says the Philosopher, “the rest of your loaf is not present.”
“What do you mean when you say the rest of my loaf? Where is the rest of my loaf of bread?” I nervously inquire.
“Those temporal portions of your space-time bread are not located at this moment in space and time.”
“I’m not going to pay for a full loaf of bread when there is only a single slice in the bag.” I’m puzzled. In the midst of my confusion, I ask the psychedelic Philosopher another question. “Am I not a complete loaf that is wholly present in space at whatever time it may be? Shouldn’t my existence and everything that I am be a whole loaf of bread?”
The psychedelic Philosopher shakes his head. From under his table he produces an empty bread bag. He opens and shakes the empty bag over the surface of the table. “See. No crumbs,” says the Philosopher. “This is your Grandma’s space-time bread bag. Do you notice how none of her temporal space-time bread slices occupy this moment in space and time. Not even a crumb. Her slices are present throughout different spaces and times.”
“Yea, my Grandma died, and it makes sense that none of her space-time bread is present right now in that empty bag.”
The psychedelic Philosopher isn’t convinced that I understand him yet. He produces two loaves of bread from under the table. “These are representations of space-time bread. I will give you a demonstration with normal bread, as a full loaf of anyone’s space-time bread cannot be wholly present at a single moment in space and time.” He positions the two loaves so that the heel end of one loaf lines up near the middle of the other full loaf. On the table, the loaves lie side by side staggered.
“Your Grandmother is dead, yes.” The psychedelic Philosopher continues: “the first full loaf represents her entire life from start to finish. Her existence is written into space and time and will forever be eternal, though, it is only represented here by this loaf.” The psychedelic Philosopher points to heel end of the second loaf of representative space-time bread, “the second loaf represents your space-time bread. Here is when you were born. It’s near the beginning of your Grandma’s last third of her life.”
I look at the loaf of bread extending past the end of the other loaf that represents my Grandma’s life. I think of an objection to the Philosopher’s claims, “I’m resisting your analogy. I can feel the time that has passed since my Grandma’s death, just like how I can feel the time drag along when I’m attempting to write a Philosophy essay.” I reach for the loaves of bread, grab them, and reposition them in a linear fashion on the table. I leave a space between the end of the first loaf and the heel end of the second loaf. Finally, I take a knife and cut the second loaf into equal slices. I set half of the slices under the table.
“There,” I say, “this is how space-time bread works.” I point to the last clean slice of bread cut from the second loaf. “The second loaf on the table represents me. The heel end was my birth, and the fresh slice farthest away from the heel is me now. The gap or distance between my freshest slice of bread and the end of my Grandma’s bread was the time past since her death. This fresh slice of bread is the present me and everything before it happened in the past. All the previous slices used to exist.” I crush all my previous slices, leaving the freshest slice on the table, and wipe all the crumbs onto the ground. “The past doesn’t exist anymore. All the previous slices on any individual’s loaf are past moments, which have come and gone. The future slices don’t exist yet either, they haven’t been baked yet in a matter of speaking.”
I cut up the first loaf into slices. My objection to the claims of psychedelic Philosopher continues. “A complete loaf of sliced bread signifies an individual’s complete set of life events from his or her birth to death.” I pause for a moment. “All the sliced bread that represents the past will turn to crumbs, it will be nothing. The only thing that exists is right now, the freshest slice of bread. The next approaching slice will replace the current slice. Then that slice will crumble into nothingness.”
The Philosopher shakes his head again. “Let me explain further,” he continues. “What you are describing is Presentism. For a Presentist, nothing exists outside of the now. The past did exist for the Presentist and the future doesn’t exist yet. For them the only time is now. To you the now is the freshest single slice of bread.”
In my head I am agreeing with the Philosopher. But he continues on. “You’re an English major right?” I nod. “Then you know that our speech and dialogue is filled with past and present tenses that modify language. Using language such as ‘that happened’ or ‘it will happen’ or ‘it is happening’ all describe an event in the past, future, or present.”
The psychedelic Philosopher takes the first loaf of sliced up bread and places it into a bread bag. He twists the bag tightly so that all the slices don’t have spaces between them. He begins again, “like an unsliced loaf of bread, a person has ingredients or parts of themselves throughout his or her entire space-time. Philosophers, like myself, call these temporal parts. The nice thing about space-time bread is that every moment and ingredient within the loaf is very real. And the extra special thing about space-time bread is that it never turns to crumbs. The last slice of bread of this complete loaf,” he points to the bag that represents my Grandma’s space-time bread, “is the moment of her death. We cannot see her space-time bread here today because her slices are spread over a different space and time than now. Her space-time bread will exist forever. This is the space-time bread guarantee.”
“Well then,” I say, “I’ll take a loaf bread for eating, but can you bag up my space-time bread?”
“Unfortunately your complete space-time loaf of bread cannot be completely and wholly present for bagging at a single moment in time. But I can assure you that this single slice of your space-time bread will remain in space-time existence forever.” The Philosopher finishes up his sales pitch. I pay him for the bread.
The psychedelic Philosopher convinces me that the passing of time is an illusion. We are all loaves of space-time bread. Every moment of time within each loaf is equally real to any other. An individual’s temporal parts or bread ingredients are present throughout his or her loaf. We are all loaves of space-time bread whose existence is eternal.
I take the bread home. I occasionally observe the single slice of my space-time bread sitting in a bag on my kitchen counter. After a few days, there isn’t any change to the slice that I notice. And after a few weeks, there isn’t even a hint of any sort of change that I can perceive. Months past and soon many years. I succumb to an illness that I am not going to recover from. At the moment of my death, the slice of my space-time bread resembles the crust and heel end of a loaf of bread. It is the final moment of my existence in space and time. After I die, the heel end of my space-time bread remains in the space and time I occupy at the instant just before my death. The only thing that remains in the space and time after my death is an empty bread bag.