Taking Time to Think About Time

  1. Few Things So Influence Our Lives as Much as Time. Yet How Little We Reflect Upon It.


I mentioned in an earlier post that we might want to take a look at time. A recent birthday and the impending end of the calendar year both put me in a frame of mind to think about time. So, today is that day.

What Is Time?

Time itself may not influence much in our lives, but it certainly provides the benchmarks along the way, doesn’t it? Think how often our reflections begin with the phrase “Remember WHEN….” How should we think about time?

Einstein taught us that time was another dimension, like the components of space. He proved that it could be bent. We now understand that it can even be speeded up or slowed down at a cosmic level. As the speed of sound is approached, time unrolls very differently indeed.

Some speculate that time is not even a real thing, only a perception. Others posit that time runs not linearly, but parallel. Past, present, and future are all occurring simultaneously. The idea of time travel has been with us since long before science fiction.

For most of us, all that is a bit esoteric. We think in more plebian terms about time. But even at the every-day level, we have options that can dramatically change how we think about it. More importantly, we can shape how we use it.

It seems to me that most of us think of time, if we think of it at all, as a linear, rolling process. We go from day to day, with time providing the checkpoints along which we need to accomplish something (go to work, go to bed, make an appointment, etc.). That is all well and good, necessary even. But it is not enough. Using time only to mark daily passages wastes an opportunity to frame our existence.

A Way to Think About Time

Allow me to give an example. A couple of years ago, I moved from a place I had been living for about 20 years to a new area. This move encouraged me to think about time in some interesting ways.

I was struck by the fact that I had lived in my previous area for two decades. The time really flew by (heard that one, before?). We were quite happy there. Still, upon reflection on that 20 years, I recognized that I always felt that it was a transit phase. We made great friends, became involved in many things we valued, but still the roots did not seem deep to me. One reflection of that was how fast the time seemed to pass. That was, in part, because I felt like I had not really settled in – I was still a bit foot loose, all that time.

When I arrived at my new abode, I felt instantly, “This is home.” This led me to an interesting thought process about time. I thought to myself that I had just invested 20 years in my last place. How much time might I have here? Not to be morbid , but one can look at actuarial tables and other sources to calculate likely life span. In my case, that told me I might have about the same amount of time here as the last area, perhaps a bit less.

This was not looking at time as a linear calculator but as a set of benchmarks. I am now somewhere I very much want to be but can reasonably estimate the time available to me is not unlimited. This now looks like a block of time, or a chapter in life, not just an unrolling string. How shall I use it? What is important, knowing this is more finite than earlier chapters would have been?

I look back on how fast that last 20 years ran, and I see this next chapter having a predictable ending. As a result, I am more thoughtful about how I would like to use my time and energies.

Thinking about our lives as a collection of time chapters has value. It makes it less likely that we will fritter away what we have to work with. Seeing life as a series of chapters, assigning a time frame to them, invites a more intentional life. This is true even not knowing when certain chapters will end. Asking oneself “What shall I do with this chapter?” This seems to me a fine way to start the New Year or your next birthday.

What Chapter are You In?

How long do you think it will run? What do you want it to be about, when all is said and done? What can you say if asking these questions about your previous chapters?

Take some time to think about it.

       Bill Clontz

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2 replies to Taking Time to Think About Time

  1. First, between the holidays is a time for reflection (time related) for me as well. My “thinking blocks” of time are location related I would call volumes with many chapters each. My extensive, and old fashioned, library of photographs are organized by address where we lived…and that’s the way I describe experiences as Highland Park, Detroit, Clarkston, Ford Lake and finally Asheville.(final, and time limited) blocks of experiences. Fortunately, at our speed, time does not slow down or speed up but it sure passes quickly enough. Time to digitize the most meaningful of the photographs and frame stories around them for the “kids”. Something to gather dust on their bookshelves (if shelves even exist in their future).. Maybe I’ll start this project tomorrow. I hear time’s winged chariot at my back…..

    • Oh, I very much like the “Chapters and volumes” analogy. Good way to think about this. We use the place as organizing principle often times as well. With 26 moves under our belt, time can get muddled in the memory, but the places do indeed stand out.And a great idea to digitize – have been doing that myself. Nice trips down memory lane while doing so, eh?

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