Man Has Realization Following Discourse with Squirrel

Josh Sellers, Co-Editor

Sitting beneath a tree, I spotted a squirrel above me. I watched as it leaped from branch to branch. It did not hesitate before it jumped. The squirrel had complete confidence that shortly after its feet lost contact with the previous branch, it would land firmly and safely on a new one.

I asked the squirrel, “How is it that you have achieved this confidence? How can you put such trust into an unpredictable outcome?”

“Do not be a fool,” it told me.

“I apologize,” I replied, “but I fail to see the foolishness in the question I have offered you.”

“No,” the squirrel recanted. “It is I that must apologize to you. I realize that you and I possess different perceptions.”

“Perceptions of what?” I asked.

“Time,” it said plainly.

“I must request that you elaborate,” I told it.

“You imagine time as a linear, sequential series of events, moving in one direction,” it explained. “You see past and present, and live in fear of the future.”

“And you,” I stuttered. “You seem to have overcome that. How does one achieve this?”

“Time does not exist as you believe. Time is a web of possibilities. You choose to focus your attention on a particular moment of time, as opposed to focusing on all pasts and outcomes,” it said.

“But if you can see every possible future, how can you know which will occur?” I challenged.

The squirrel gazed up at the stars in thought.

“When I depart from a branch on the tree, I have decided my future,” it explained.

“What if the future you chose led you to fall to your death,” I suggested. “Why not select an alternative?”

“We exist not to determine the future, friend, but to enact it.”

I paused, struggling to interpret what I had been told.

“This is difficult to accept,” I admitted.

“I do not see why that is,” the squirrel said. “After all, you’ve just happily spent more time conversing with a squirrel than most would before questioning things.”

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“True time moves forward not with the tick of a clock but with the making of a choice. Until a choice is taken, the future is not determined.” – Tom Montalk


This story explores the idea of determinism and non-linear time. This was inspired by the science ficiton novella Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang.