“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” ~Henry Van Dyke
Time is a fascinating subject both for scientists and philosophers alike.
Time is something we contemplate as much as we think about the reasons behind our existence and our relationship to the universe and what surrounds us. Why are we here? How long do we have? Can we travel in time?
What is time?
Is it a living, breathing thing?
Is time a commodity—a finite and valuable one? We do say time is money.
Do we own time?
Is it a natural phenomenon that is measured scientifically? Or is it just an abstract concept?
Is time a one-way street? … Past, present and future.
We value time. We spend time. We save time. Sometimes we kill time. Other times we share time. And the hardened criminals serve time.
Some of us believe that time heals.
Music has a time signature.
Athletic achievement is measured in time.
The heart rate is measured using time.
The rigid metrics of time
We measure time using calendars and clocks. Time is an important measure of our existence … or so we’re lead to believe.
When newborns are ushered into this world, we’re not too concerned with how they spend their time. We want them to eat, sleep, grow, and be healthy. We don’t expect them to have a life plan, goals, or a desire for a higher education. We just want them to be healthy.
But things start to change after that. We want our children to do well in school, pick a hobby or two, then go to college and have a great career. Then do their part by bringing more little ones into the world.
We regiment our lives based on time. Tick tock the clock is ticking; it’s time to get up. It’s time to go to work. We need so many hours at work and so many hours of painful commuting. Maybe a few hours of TV and if we’re lucky, enough hours for sleep.
We race to do our part with efficiency. We want to do as much as possible in as little time as we can.
Our society is obsessed with time. We want to do and experience so many things. We want to live a long and prosperous life.
At the same time, we want to look and feel youthful. Old is considered an insult. Rather than celebrate the wisdom of old age—what should be a high value time metric—we expect our elderly to sit in their quiet homes because we deem them old and redundant.
One can say we have a hypocritical view of time. What do we value more: time (living longer) or youth (living for a shorter time)?
We fear death and want to extend our lives. Most of us seem to be racing. For what? An invisible finish line that keeps changing—bigger homes, more income, more travels and adventure, more and more of everything (except aging and death) … more time.
The relativity of time
In our race against time, we don’t stop to think about how we experience time.
We’ve all felt this in our lives. When it comes to our own experiences, time seems to travel at the speed of our perception of the event—not what the clock says.
As the quote above describes beautifully, our perception of time is subjective. We experience time differently based on what we’re doing or what’s happening at a certain moment.
If you’ve ever waited for someone to come out of surgery, a few hours turn into an eternity. You’re sitting waiting, helpless, worrying, hoping, and praying. The arms of the clock move ever so slowly.
The opposite is felt when we have something really exciting going on. When you meet someone you love (before familiarity sits in), where does the time go? The minutes and hours seem to travel faster than the speed of light.
It’s the same clock ticking at the same rate, yet our experience tells us otherwise.
If we feel time differently, why does it matter so much to us as a standard metric?
Some philosophers believe that time is just a concept—an intellectual construct for us humans to sequence and compare events. So time is neither an event nor a thing; it’s something we made up to make sense of what we’re experiencing.
Scientifically, time is considered a dimension in the fabric of the universe, regardless of the events taking place.
Whether time is a manmade concept or part of the cosmic creative dance doesn’t change how we view time.
Why do we stick to a made-up concept or an independent phenomenon so much as if our life depends on it? We don’t seem to be racing against gravity or electromagnetic energy.
Does it matter how long we have? And what is “how long” anyway?
Some of us die young; others of old age and some never make it past birth. Is their existence or experience any less valuable because of the time they were here?
The practical side of time and beyond
Clocks and time can be used for practical purposes to facilitate our interactions with others. We can set appointments, or keep track of hours to bill a client.
We may use time to measure excellence in sports. And that is even questionable.
Other than that, does it matter if we measured something by time or not?
And if time was of no relevance, is there a right or wrong way to spend our time?
Does it matter if it takes us an hour to cook a meal or five minutes? Does it matter when a child starts walking or acting his age?
Does it matter how old someone is when they want to go to school or learn something?
Does anyone care if I watch TV for an hour or ten?
The best way to measure how you spend your time on this earth is by your level of contentment and peace.
Time is not really a factor when you’re fully immersed in an experience. Our perception of time is usually based on longing for more (time flies) or fretting and resisting what’s taking place (time slows down).
Do we make the best of our time or the best of our perception of time?
The answer is quite obvious. Time is in the eye of the perceiver.
The time of your life is not measured in years or achievements or anything else.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that time and age have nothing to do with living.
You may not share the same views. But today I invite you to think about your own way of perceiving and using time. Instead of rigid clocks and calendars, how about we:
- Do what we love, when we can.
- Be with the people we love as much as we can.
- Get fully immersed in the experience.
- And when things get rough, accept the turbulence and ride the energy wave the best way we can, accepting the pain, weakness, vulnerability, and our humanity.
The energy of life vibrates with every molecule, every heartbeat, every breath, every word and musical note—regardless of time.