November 1 , 2020 /

MEASURING TIME

This piece was inspired not by changing clocks but being changed by them, moving AZ from the Pacific Zone to the Mountain Zone while our clocks stayed the same.

Whether you use a metronome, a calendar or a clock, most people set about measuring and keeping track of time one way or another.   We cannot save or waste time, we can only choose how we use time, this hour and the next.  Hours become days which become weeks and on and on into months and years.  That’s how we talk about time, and schedules, and plans.

Annie Dillard had it right: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”

The  sun, moon and stars are better keepers of time than we are and the indigenous peoples were onto this long before we invented clocks and attempted to regulate time according to our needs and interests. My conclusion, along with a few others, is that time is a construct, an invention for our convenience. Most of our measuring, organizing, and even selling time contribute to our illusion of time as something real which we can see and manipulate. One day, we will run out of time, maybe step out gently, and we will come to the end of time as we know it.

How we experience the passing of time has been a subject of exploration and invention for centuries with various instruments put together to first see how the sun and moon, relative to the earth, moved from one day to the next. The earliest devices such as obelisks and sundials were not mechanical but mechanical people gradually put pieces of machinery together until we had clocks and those were based on either 12 or 24 hour periods of time, periods of time, spaces measured from one period to the next. Soon people started measuring their days by hours and assigning various activities to certain hours such as work, home life and projects of all kinds with timelines and timetables. Scheduling time, keeping time and getting the trains to run on time became serious jobs. I still resonate with dawn and dusk without reference to the clock.

Today, most computers, smart phones and calendars will tell you what time it is without your having to do anything but look and, if you forget to look, there are reminders in the form of bells, whistles and gongs. My calendar refers to those as “alerts” and I can set how much advance notice I want for an event of one kind or another. Those are to let you know what needs to be done or how much time you have before the next appointment or task. Or if you set a timer, it means time is up. Up? Expired, gone. Where did it go? The  name “alarm clock” should be eliminated. Why should it be an alarm which means “an anxious awareness of a danger” instead of “gentle wake up clock?” I know, they make those too, in the form of soft, increasingly louder chimes.

Of interest to me on a personal front is that we now have more choices about how we use a day, week or month than ever before, being free from work, growing children, and earning a living.  We have the luxury of this marvelous gift of time to use however we choose.  I used to find it somewhat amusing when someone said, “Sorry, I didn’t have time.”   One response, which I had to use carefully, was, “I didn’t know you had less time than anyone else.  Perhaps you chose something else.  It’s really about priorities and choices.”

It is not about time, nor how much nor how little. Rather, it’s about the choices that we make that fill up the space of an hour, a day, a week, a month or even a year. We can think of those five entities as spaces given to us to use as we wish, or in some cases, as others would like as well. In the end, what matters is whether we believe our investment of time has given us and others the benefits and rewards of time used well, and closer to the end, a life well-lived.  “Once upon a time…” and we write our own stories from time to time.  If you have just a little more “time” here’s a 4 minute read that may amuse you a bit longer:

https://www.dailywritingtips.com/80-idioms-with-the-word-time/

I am headed for # 34.

 

 

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