What Is Time Anyway?

I have recently been reading a little book that my wife found for me at a rummage sale. It is one of those books that finds its’ way into your life that you probably would never have found on your own. The book’s title is “Einstein’s Dreams” and was written several years ago by Alan Lightman, a professor of physics and writing at MIT.

In this book (according to a review written by Idris Hsi), “Alan Lightman has created a series of vignettes
that describe some dreams that Einstein could have had while trying to
understand the mysteries of relativity, space, and time.  Each vignette
contains a world that behaves according to a particular model or perception
of time and space, inhabited by people who have evolved behaviors and philosophies
as a consequence of this paradigm.”

I really couldn’t have said it any better.

There is a story where time is slower at higher elevations and there is a massive migration to the mountains so that people will be able to live longer. People at lower elevations even build their houses on stilts in order to maximize the effect of time on their lives.

Another story talks about how each moment is so slow that people get lost between sticking a fork into a salad and the fork actually making it to their mouths. There is also the world where you live your whole life somewhere between dawn and the setting of the sun. The other side of this is the people who live their lives bewteen dusk and sunrise and therefore never really see the sun.

Other than the possibility that different time dimensions exist at the same time as our own, the book did get me thinking about time and how we pereceive it. Some waste time as if there were no end to it for themselves. Other people seem to make each moment count as if it will end someday soon.

The bible tells us that our time on earth is as the life of a flower—short in relation to the whole of what has been and what more is to come—a mere vapor so to speak ( James 4:14).

I do know that our perception of time changes as we age—summer as a child used to be almost like an entire year and now seems like just so many weeks. The time between each Christmas seems shorter each year and that is not because stores begin to advertise the holiday long before Thanksgiving—although that may also be a sign of how time is perceived as well.

Bob Dylan told us back in the late 60’s that the times were changing but didn’t tell us that 40 years later we would still be listening to that song as well as others that he has written.

As I write this my daughter is preparing to enter high school on the 8th of August. I am from up north and we never started school until after labor day. Here in the mountains they call off school at the hint of a snowfall (for safety’s sake) but up north where the roads were flat and straight we hardly ever had a snow day unless there came a blizzard of two or three feet.

It seems like it was just yesterday that Laura was beginning school—now she often cooks her mom and me dinner, knows more about the computer than the average kid and is becoming a beautiful young lady. Why—we have even started some around-the-neighborhood driving lessons in anticipation of an actual license in a year or so.

Time does seem to fly except when you are in a traffic jam or grocery store line that doesn’t seem to be moving. Then it creeps along at a snail’s pace and seems to go slower the more you think about it.

So, as we navigate through life, remember this: there are people all around us moving at different paces within their very own time zones. For some the speed limit is not posted and for others it is a conservative 45 miles per hour. Some people are still living in the past and haven’t moved into the present where most of us hang our hats. Some are so into the “now” that yesterday is already a distant memory (if remembered at all) and tomorrow hasn’t even crossed their minds yet.

Other people we meet like to control time and are always where their daytimer says they should be. Some don’t wear watches and just like to know that it is today—they eat when they are hungry and sleep when they are tired and try to live peacfeully the rest of the time.

I guess the moral to the story is that if we keep looking for the time to do something, chances are we never will.

Or as Bob Dylan said:


Well, the moral of the story,
The moral of this song,
Is simply that one should never be
Where one does not belong.
So when you see your neighbor carryin’ somethin’,
Help him with his load,
And don’t go mistaking Paradise
For that home across the road.






Copyright © 1968; renewed 1996 Dwarf Music

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One Response to What Is Time Anyway?

  1. Belle says:

    That’s a mold-braeekr. Great thinking!

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