Time


August 1st, 2009

The question was something like: “What happened before the big bang?” And the answer was something like: “There was no before the big bang – the big bang was the beginning of time and space.”

Linear time is so much a part of our lives it’s hard to imagine time not existing. These thoughts swirl around my head as I flip the calendar to August. Linear time is comforting – it’s predictable, measurable and the one thing we can rely on in this messy, unpredictable, chaotic world we live in. So damn reliable that I missed my train yesterday by seconds. Seconds! I had 10 minutes to get from one end of the city to the other and catch the 12 noon train back to Geelong. I dodged traffic and arrived breathless on the tram. Leapt off the tram and dodged more traffic to get to the traffic lights just as they changed. So I waited. And waited. And waited. Oh, maybe 45 seconds. Green light! I sprinted to the station. Okay, sprinted might not be the right word, but you get the picture. I slowed momentarily to glance at the platform number for my train. 8A. 8A! Why couldn’t it be 3A or even 5A. Anything closer than 8A. So I kept running. Train in sight now. Guard talking into his walkie talkie. Surely he could see me coming and would hold the train for 10 seconds more. Nooooooo….
Just as I reached for the door the train pulled away. I stood there panting, wondering what I would do with the hour I now had to wait for the next train. Nothing for it but to go and have a hot chocolate.

Time gives us boundaries, and structure. It gives us now – a place where we can try and live in, instead of the past or the future. Time gives us those too. There’s often too much of it or too little. Using a lack of time as a barrier to getting things done always amuses me. We all have the same time, an hour in London is also an hour in Bells Beach, even though the actual hour varies depending on which direction the planet is facing at that particular moment.

We talk about time speeding up and slowing down. It doesn’t really. Our perception changes. Time is our enemy and our friend. It gives us metaphors. Flowing. Running out. It costs money. We can give time, spend it or take it. We can use it wisely, or waste it. It gives us mind-bending science fiction scenarios and the lure of time travel. It gives us markers to be aware of change – days, months, years, decades roll by. But does it really exist, or is it a construct? Oh my, now I’ll have to go and lie down.

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