The 3rd in a 9-post series on Perceived Levels of Reality
Now I want to look at another level of perceived reality, a reality experienced “over time.” You experience how things change over time. In those changes, you experience the flow of life and your relationships. In your own changes, over time, you see that you are verbs. Verbs are actions over time. I use the term verb to capture this idea of something happening over time.
In your experience, your body changes. You grow from an infant to a toddler to a teenager to a young adult to an older adult to your twilight years. Your food changes. What were nutrients in the soil then grain, were picked and worked by hands, mixed with eggs and water, baked, put on display, and then either eaten or thrown in landfill. This is the flow of energy, the verb in language, the action that develops the possibility and changes the noun. You are a verb, and you need verbs.
As something comes into existence over time, it develops, definitionally. These verbs in your experience change or come into existence over time. They develop. In the development-verb level of perceived reality, you see people changing over time. What you considered completely acceptable behavior in your 22-year old friend becomes questionable at 33-years old, and problematic at 50-years old. You expect them to mature, to change over time. You definitely expect this of children. The desire to put everything is adorable in a 1-year old and annoying in a 4-year old. The need to bounce all over the place is healthy at 4-years old and a problem at 15-years old. You expect people to grow up, to change over time. Are you different than you were ten years ago? Have you learned things that changed how you engage with the world? Do you have exactly the same physical capacities, or have they also changed? This also applies to groups. Expectations of a new group are different than a mature group. You expect groups to learn, to get better at what they do, to change.
That things change over time, that they develop, has been described by science for a very long time. Whether it was Archimedes using small sections to describe the tangent to a curve or Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz inventing infinitesimal calculus, these great scientists described the perceived reality of development, over time – the verb – mathematically, as a change in something X (dx) over a change in time (dt), written as dx/dt. With this notation, scientists have long looked at how something changes over time, which allows them to understand both its behavior, over time, and its outcome, at any given moment in time. The relevance of this scientific insight to human agreements is that everything changes over time and that this change is measurable.
The social sciences have also incorporated the reality of change over time. Here I will highlight two ways the social sciences look at change: through stages of development; and through net change. “Stages of development” approaches assume change in maturation, from earlier, less mature stages to later, more mature stages. This is akin to the changes you see as children grow older – a healthy 2-year old has added more capacities over its first two years, it is more mature. “Net change” approaches look at the difference in what comes into and what goes out of something, with the net change being the net of the ins and outs. For example, weight gain can be seen as the net difference between the calories take in and those used up or taken out.
Thus, the physical and social sciences provide highly developed frameworks for working with the development-verb level of reality. Complementary to the experience of “vertical time” in the possibility-light level of reality, the experience of the development-verb level of reality can be characterized as “horizontal time,” the experience of living in the past and in the future, over time.