It’s About Time

I started to think about time one evening, and I couldn’t get to the end of it.

I have a friend in India. Chandigarh is half-way around the world from where I lived until a year ago, and I had a hard time keeping track of what time it is there, so I made a chart. I called him one day, and I updated my chart because I had just moved to a different time zone.

There I sat, changing time. Can we change time? I always struggle with Einsteinian physics. I do get the general concepts, so I am aware that theoretically we can change time in some sense. We can bend time, or stretch it, or shrink it; time is, as they say, plastic, not concrete. But we cannot, as I understand things, change time’s consistency. For example, water can be turned into steam or ice, but I haven’t heard that time can be made liquid or solid. My sense is that time is evanescent. At least, it gets away from me in the same way as does a cloud.

Think of all the things we do with time: We take time, make time, use time, keep time, save time, lose time, spend time, waste time. If we have time, we can spare time, give time, share time.

We bandy those words about with abandon. At first, as I listed them, I thought them all to be literal impossibilities. Then I thought again.

Make time. How do you do that? Well, you decrease the amount of time you spend on one or more activities and thus release time not otherwise available. It’s like when you pinch off a bit of dough from two already formed cookies to make a third.

Taking time works much the same way, but you could be taking it from someone else’s allocation, and that might not be fair.

Using and spending time mean pretty much the same thing. Once you have done one of them, the time is gone; we all know that. Where did it go? When you use water, you know where it went: You drank it or you took a bath in it and let it go down the drain. Where does the time go? We ask ourselves that many times.

Keeping time has several meanings. You keep time with music by tapping your feet or dancing well. A young man keeps time with his girl.

You can save time by hurrying while you perform some action or activity. But, I ask you, where is that time you saved? Do you have a drawer full of time at the end of the week? A book in which you record all the time you saved, and the interest accrued?

All of us have lost time. I am sure that, once you let it get away, you never get it back. I doubt that no one who reads this has never wasted time. That time is as good as lost, also. But I believe that some wasted time is valuable, so I never worry about that.

When we plan ahead, we leave time for the unexpected.

Here are a few puzzles: We can run out of time, but not into it. We can take a time out, but not a time in. We can do different things at the same time, but not exactly the same thing at different times. At the end of an event, we say time’s up, but we never say time’s down. We have both down times and up times.

I’m ashamed to admit this one: We all kill time.

Sometimes, we just sit around with time on our hands. Again, you cannot see this time, or put it away to use later. We all know that it is good to give some time—say a few minutes—to someone else who needs a hand; we all can spare time at a time like this.

Best of all, we can share time with all the folks whose company we enjoy. There’s nothing better to do with time than share it.

Oh dear! I had a lot more to say and I never did answer the question about whether or not we can change time, but now I don’t have time.

 

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