According to Albert Einstein the only reason for time
… is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.
Which does kinda make sense when you think about it. But (and oh my god I can’t believe I’m about to argue with one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century), the very concept of time is a very human one. Birds don’t measure time, neither do trees or shrimp or elephants or fleas or dandelions or… You get my point. Yes they may do things at certain times of the year, but only because we have observed the patterns over the millennia and assigned words to help us understand.
For example, think of a tree. Right now here in the northern hemisphere most of them are bare because it’s winter, but in a few months’ time they will blossom and we will know it’s spring. From that point we look forward to summer as the trees have full foliage and they begin to grow their fruit. Come the last quarter of the year, as the temperature drops, they begin to lose their leaves, any fruit is harvested and autumn is upon us. And the seasonal cycle begins anew.
How many references to time are there in that paragraph above? I count eleven. It would have been impossible for me to have written that paragraph without those references because our understanding of time is reliant upon the language we have assigned to it.
It’s really quite impossible to imagine our lives without the concept of time. It is so hard-wired into our collective consciousness that right from birth the very notions of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years are thrust upon us whether we want them or not. And we spend the rest of our lives from that moment on trying to catch up. What we’re catching up to is anyone’s guess, but there never seems to be enough time to get there.
And so here we are, the first day of 2014.
The Earth has successfully circled the sun and we’re at the beginning again. It took twelve months to get here. Fifty-two weeks. Three-hundred-and-sixty-five days. It’s like some big cosmic reset. Start again at zero and let’s see what happens this time. The conceit of course is that we are a year older, moving ever closer to that inevitable moment when our time stops.
Kinda depressing I know, and I apologise. I’m just trying to put things into some kind of perspective.
I have to admit that there’s a part of me that dreads the reset. I get so caught up in that whole looking-forward thing and that whole looking-back thing I kinda forget to enjoy the moment. The now. Instead of focussing on accomplishments and successes I look at the failures and all the things I haven’t achieved. Instead of looking forward with optimism my dread gets the better of me and I imagine a year of “failures” like the last one.
Ridiculous really. And not very healthy.
I think one of the hardest aspects of time is the notion of change. It is indeed inevitable. And change doesn’t really come any bigger than when the clock is set back to zero for another year. The anticipation of that change is what I think I react to the most. As much as I embrace it I do find myself worrying what form it will take. Will it be a big change? A small one? Will there be more than one? How affected will I be? My family? My friends? And that’s the other thing about time isn’t it? It goes by and we have absolutely no way of knowing what the future will bring. We really are at its mercy.
Those of you that don’t know me, I’m a bit of a Doctor Who fan. Last week the Christmas special said goodbye to the current Doctor and introduced the new one. His parting words included these:
Times change, and so must I. We all change when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives and that’s okay. That’s good. Gotta keep it moving. So long as you remember all the people that you used to be.
If I could go back in time I would visit certain moments of my life, bop myself on the head and say “NO!”. Unfortunately I’ve watched enough science fiction to know that any kind of shenanigans on the space/time continuum never end well. And besides, temporal paradoxes aside, who’s to say I wouldn’t make the same mistakes again anyway?
The first few seconds of this new year were spent in the company of my family as we ushered it in amidst hilarious attempts to light fireworks in the pouring rain. It was one of those moments in a family’s history that will be remembered forever. And it’s that, I think, that sums up the notion of time the best for me. All those moments that come together to make one glorious whole. They may not always be happy moments or sad moments or big ones or small ones, but they are the moments that make us who we are. They are the moments that tell our stories.
And maybe, just maybe, 2014 will be a year we look less at the clock and more at what’s happening in the now.
And maybe, just maybe, we’ll be happier for it.