Today, the minutes seem like hours,
The hours go so slowly

Stephen Sondheim

maya_priestIn the English language, time can be used as a noun, an adjective or a verb, either intransitive or transitive and is easily made into an adverb.  Using this language we can chop time into:  simple present, continuous present, present perfect, present perfect continuous, simple past, continuous past, past perfect, past perfect continuous, simple future, future perfect, and future perfect continuous.

In physics, time is a continuum that lacks spatial dimensions where an object moving near the speed of light ages at a slower rate when compared to a stationary object. In philosophy events that occur at separate locations are inexorably linked by the immediate present.  Philosophers tackle questions like, do future things already exist in the present?

For most of us, though, time seems almost concrete.  We can measure the trip from work to home, to a loved one’s city, and to the grocery store. We know in seconds how corn will pop in a microwave.  Time is almost palpable.  It seems perversely long when we’re young and obscenely short when we’re old.

We first measured time only during daylight; then church bells and mizzens gave us an audible means of knowing where we were in our daily journey.  Clock faces on public buildings augmented the bells and then clocks moved indoors, into our homes.

At one time we carried time pieces in a purse or a pocket, then found it necessary to carry a time piece on one’s wrist as we felt it ever more-important to watch time.  Now we use chronometers that function at depths of more than 200 meters (Swatch) although nitrogen narcosis sets in around 30 meters. Science and industry demand that we keep our measurements ever more precisely so now we use clocks driven by cesium and rubidium (both elements discovered by Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchhoff in the late 19th century in Germany) that lose a second every million years.

Other species depend on natural stimuli to tell them when to wake or sleep, begin their great migrations, their annual hibernations, their spawnings.  We have lost that knowledge.

Sandy Denny


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