I have always been fascinated by alternate theories of time and how it works, including how we experience it.
I’ve enjoyed the standard iteration that addresses the complexity of simple time jumping. How does jumping into the future affect the past? How does jumping into the past affect the future? That standard iteration really looks at whether the past can be altered or whether changing the past can alter the future. In the end, I favor the philosophy that the past can be altered and it will affect the future, but time is a great tree or river with many many branches. The main branch is resistant to changes based on small changes, but accumulation of many small changes or a truly big change creates an alternate path. Paths are also created for the “choices” that might have been different.
In junior high, I read a science fiction paperback that had the human race living backwards because they couldn’t accept the reality of their devolution. Rather than evolving from or after the dinosaurs etc., we were devolving into them. Without the book in front of me, I find it hard to be specific about the particulars, but I found it fascinating.
As a pagan who explored many varied paths, I found the idea of a time spiral that coincides with Nature and natural cycles most understandable and likely. Those natural cycles include the waxing and waning moon, the equinoxes and solstices, the seasons and birth-death-rebirth. That view could easily lead into reincarnation.
Finally, the view Star Trek Deep Space Nine offered when the Captain and crew were attempting to use a wormhole encountered an alien species who “owned” it. The aliens couldn’t understand why human beings saw time as solely linear and let their bad memories replay. Why didn’t they just “live” in the good times and experience only those memories replaying?
The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram makes a connection between language and the loss of timelessness. People and events used to exist and move in a timeless now. Things moved in and out of experience, in and out of perception, but never really left. We were all rooted in the place and histories of our environment and they were contiguous and continuous. In his view, symbolic and abstract language and writing broke that connection. If we perceive everything from the outside, then those things must be separate and changes can only be explained by time. Time itself is linear: past, present, future. Thus, we all live linear lives that begin and end.
Religion then becomes a fantasy to allay our fears of death and give our lives meaning. Religions that are too structures and include lots of rules repulse me. I do NOT believe in any of them, especially the ones that claim to be absolute. If they create conflict and artificially change the our experiences (crusades, jihad, fundamentalism), they are the exact opposite of who and what we are.
Having said that, I am a product of my time and place. I have had moments that connected me then and there to that experience without worry or analysis. In the end, I believe that I will change form rather than simply ceasing to exist. Could that me recognize this me? Will I get my questions answered? Will that change anything? Probably not, but the potential remains.
NOTE: If you’d like to read great stories that address some of these issues, start with the Time Quintet (A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters) by Madeleine L’Engle. I still reread them periodically.