When I was a child I’d wake up on a weekend morning thinking happily how I had two whole days off from school! I’d think about all the delightful things I would do–depending on the weather, and what fun it was to have two whole days to do it in. Time for children is much different than it is for adults, as any parent can tell you. Trying to get a child to hurry when there is something more interesting to do is quite a task.
Regardless of the fact that humanity invented clocks most likely in order to coordinate movement, time has become a tyrant for many. Isn’t it odd that something we invented has so much power over us? Then to further complicate matters, someone came up with the idea of Daylight Savings. Several someones are actually responsible, beginning with Ben Franklin who thought it up originally, though no one actually implemented the idea until the 20th century.
This readjustment we go through every spring and fall is fast approaching. Stephen rejoices: he feels the hour stolen from him in the spring is being returned. I notice my timing is off, and all of a sudden I have an hour less of daylight to use for anything I might have planned. Plus mealtimes are disjointed for a while. Stephen is resentful that “W” took three more weeks from standard time and tacked it onto daylight savings. He can be quite vocal about it.
What is daylight savings? It’s not as though we can bank any of the minutes or hours we might wish to “save.” When I spend time, I can’t take it out of my wallet and plunk it down on a counter. Time is slippery stuff and my experience with it is that there are occasions when it speeds by and those when it drags, yet it’s all the same objective time. Ever notice that from a subjective standpoint going somewhere seems to take more time than returning home? Yet the amount of miles traveled as well as the minutes or hours spent remains the same.
Unfortunately for Stephen’s feelings, my habit has always been to try to pack as much as I can do into whatever time I have. Much to his annoyance because he prefers to leave and arrive early, I also have a tendency to try to do more than is reasonable in whatever time there is before we leave. Or else I plan too much for what is realistic and then regret what I have to leave undone. To me time is more precious than money. It is possible to save or spend cash to one’s satisfaction, however that cannot be said about time, which despite our illusions to the contrary, we cannot actually control.
Regardless how true this may be, I seem unable to avoid finding one last thing to do before the allotted time is up. Why this is I am not sure. I do believe it is a habit that would be better broken than continued. Meanwhile I will work at this the best way I know how.
Time has always fascinated me. It has been the subject of a number of my poems as well as some of my columns in the past. One aspect of it that interests me greatly is the variation in how fast or how slowly it can seem to pass. For instance, if I were to be holding my breath, a minute can seem quite a long time, yet if I were to be reading an interesting book, many minutes can pass very quickly and without making any impression on me at all.
I received my first watch for my eighth birthday. I was thrilled. So thrilled that I forgot to take my new watch off that evening and climbed into the bathtub still wearing it. It was an inexpensive one and not waterproof. I was devastated. My parents were always accusing me of being careless and here again was proof. It was several years before I was given another watch. This time I was a good deal more careful with it.
Once watches were a utilitarian tool people wore–on the wrist, on the belt, on a chain, or around the neck. Most adults had two, a plain one for every day and a fancy one for special occasions. In those days they were fairly expensive. While today, there are expensive watches, they are worn more often as a status symbol. For most of us, as a result of electronic devices, watches have gone from a necessity to an ornament.
Time seems elastic. When I am driving to a destination at some distance, it seems to take longer to get there than it does to come back. How strange! The distance is the same; absent traffic jams or other problems why should one way seem longer than another? One possible answer is that I am retracing my steps on the way home thus there is no question about how to get there. Still this time disparity seems to be true whether or not I have been somewhere many times.
The way time passes seems to be primarily subjective. Objective time is when I set the timer to remove the tea basket from the teapot, or to take something from the oven because it is done. Here there is no question of subjective time because it is ticking away on the timer and I am simply relying on that to tell me what to do next. I don’t even think about how long or how short that time will take. Yet if I am pursuing a deadline, time may be of the essence and so pass subjectively.
Although there were hourglasses or candles for short term measurement, for centuries people told time by the sun. Until the 19th century there were no standard time zones. They were set up in 1883 to make it possible to catch a train on time. There are those who say there is no such thing as time. That it is a purely human invention. This may or may not be true. Mystics have said that all time exists at once and we merely move through it. There seems to be no way to prove this. However in the future as it has in the past, the subject of time will no doubt continue to intrigue scientists and philosophers as well as me. Tasha Halpert