Blog # 167            TIME OUT OF MIND

Man’s eternal obsession with time, most particularly its passage, conceivably, may have had its roots in early man’s observation of the gradual process of existential changes in his environment.  As man developed, the enterprise of measuring time was pursued and progress was made, from observing the movement of the sun by means of its shadow on a sundial, by the measured gradual accumulation of uniform drops of water in a calibrated vessel, by the time of gravitational descent of sand in an hourglass, and by astral observation.

Ultimately, the useful establishment of uniform units of time enabled its measurement by clocks and other time-keeping objects such as pocket and wrist watches and far later, digital devices. Contemporary developments in time study now actually enable the measurement of distances between bodies in outer space, by calculations using a new unit of time, light-years.

The universally accepted mode of telling time facilitated the development and efficient functioning of society, and made possible its interactive functioning with other societies. Uniform consideration of time gave rise to accepted workdays and leisure time, events such as commonly celebrated holidays and seasonal festivals, religious occasions, planting and harvesting time and birthdays. Time was expressly consulted in making and keeping business and social appointments, as well as in the baking of a cake or the boiling of an egg.

Uniform considerations of time affect and regularly direct our schedules of eating and sleeping, times of travel, departure and arrival; even our very longevity is calculated by actuaries using time-oriented calculations. Finally, it can fairly be concluded that absent the uniformly accepted, universal reference to objective time, life would be disoriented, disorganized and completely rudderless.

SUBJECTIVE (“experienced”) TIME

To deign to write on the subject of time in a non -objective context, would perilously run the risk of a disreputable charge of an oxymoronic conception; time having been stated to be intrinsically scientific and impersonally understood and calculated.  We will knowingly and intentionally accept such risk, for reasons of sincere empathy for certain events in time, not appropriate to objective calculation.

In addition to incurring said ignominious risk, we would additionally  confess that subjective, or experienced, time is of no practical utility whatsoever, to the relevant individual nor to his society, is not uniform but rather singular, is not acceptably measurable and is totally non-scientific; however its empathetic acknowledgement and consideration would seem to be irresistibly compelling.

How does one measure the (felt) time spent in waiting for a critical diagnosis of a child? How fast is actual time passing when you, or a loved one, are in pain? How much objectively calculated time does it take for a mother of a soldier stationed overseas, to open a delivered military telegram? How much time passes before the lost toddler is found by the life-guard? How long is the wait for a report from the surgeon? These are examples of stressful times not appropriately calculable by consulting a wristwatch.

How do you measure the time of a long sought after lover’s kiss? How much time does it take to receive a warm handshake signifying a significant emotional reconciliation? How do you calculate the rare and unfortunate brevity of true beauty?

The knowledge and awareness of scientifically calculated time is essentially necessary and further, that it is to be used efficiently and judiciously; yet there are particular moments in life, which are calculable solely in unmeasured units of endurance or joy, and necessarily  experienced in their own nuanced metric and fashion.