Albert Einstein thought deeply about time, its meaning and its consequences and his theories had a profound effect on the way in which time is thought about. To most of us outside a theoretical understanding of his work, time is still thought of, and indeed experienced as linear, a concept with a past, present and future; the so called arrow of time. However, that is not how he thought of time.
For Einstein the consequences of the equations about time meant that there is no past, present or future – that all of time is present all the time. In other words, there is no flow of time, no river moving forward moment to moment, even though that may be our experience, but rather it is a series of moments that do not flow and that therefore all of time is present all of the time.
So what happens when we die? Apart from discussions about the afterlife, what does this idea of time contribute to our understanding of mortality? Well, in a sense it means our existence remains as part of the fabric of the universe. This does not mean we live forever, but the moments of time that we lived remain because those moments are always there.
If we could step outside our universe, we could observe the whole of time, the time that has been, the time that is current at the moment of our observation and all the time of the future. Embedded in that view would be the period of time (or those moments, like a package) when we lived. So in a physical sense we do not end with death (the destination of our spirit is another matter), we remain imprinted in that part of time for which we existed. Perhaps we should think of time as a cosmic Facebook, where our presence remains embedded even though we have gone.
It may therefore be of some comfort to imagine that thanks to Einstein we face death in the knowledge that we live on in time.