The clock by my nightstand is one of the older digital models that has a preset timer to automatically change the hours as we “Spring forward or Fall back” in time. Unfortunately, it does not realize that the North American continent has changed the weeks and the months where “daylight savings” officially becomes effective. So when I woke up that one particular Sunday at the usual time (or so I thought), I went through my morning doing what I do at a scheduled pace feeling confident that I was keeping time with my plans. It wasn’t until four hours later that a quick glance at all the other digital clocks around the house made me realize that in fact I was one hour behind with my schedule of activities for the day. I started to fret. Whereas an hour ago I had thought I had much time on my hands, in a split second I had not enough time.
Time. The expressions and phrases of “time” have been repeated time and again. It is what we do, keep time, run our lives on time, measuring our days and nights, wasting time or making good use of time. We kill time, all in good time, save time, or are ahead of our time. We are right on time, or out of time, stalling for time, taking our time. And if we happen to be having fun, time flies, while a wounded heart takes time to heal. Whereas there’s no time like the present, we’re always running out of time because time waits for none, and although time is money and time is of the essence, we let time go by.
As a child I was fascinated by the concept of defying time. I figured that if were to travel to the other side of the globe and kept in constant motion, I would be ahead or behind by 12, 14, 18 or even 25 hours depending on where I started and where I ended. I could “trick” my body into living longer by traveling back through time zones. Little did I realize then that time zones were created by man to compensate the theory of relativity, the principals of speed and light, unifying time and space. (I’m sure there’s a great deal more physics involved but not relevant to my understanding of the concept of time.)
The concept of time is relative to the state of my mind. Time does not do anything. Time provides the historical framework in which things happen, but time has no innate ability itself. Time is quantitative, not qualitative. Most of us know the feeling well: As children, we asked, “Are we there yet?” As adults we ask “When did we get there?” As children, it seemed like Christmas would never get here. As adults, we fill our days with “busyness,” and time seems to fly by faster and Christmas comes too soon. Of course, time is moving at the same rate as it did during childhood, when car rides seemed to stretch on infinitely. But what’s changed is our perception of time. I remember the first time I drove to a distant locale, it seemed like it took forever driving through unknown territory. As I repeated the drive on my return, it seemed shorter and time “flew” by faster. According to an article in Psychology Today, my sense of time, it turns out, isn’t even. It’s dictated by how much information I need to process, which is why in my younger years, when I was processing lots and lots of new stuff, time seemed to pass so slowly. Perhaps I am not processing as much “stuff” now.
Time is said to be eternal. It is said that it has neither a beginning nor an end. Yet we are able to measure it as years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds. We have also given meaning to time breaking it into past, present and future. Time moves. What was yesterday is not today. What is today will not be tomorrow. Time exists always. Yet the difference in our perception (with all due respect to Psychology Today) is how closer we feel we are to the horizon of our lives. Time is eternal, yet, somewhere, a clock ticks for all of us, silently.
“…But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Gandalf – J.R.R.Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring