Time, the cross of the modern era
|My digital watch|
Have you noticed how obsessed we are with time? We wear watches, put clock apps on our mobile phones, have clocks in our cars, clocks on our walls and desks. Heck, here where I am sitting at my desk, at home, I can see at least 3 clocks: my watch, my fish tank and my computer screen. If I open the cover on my phone, there would be another.
It is as if we cannot live without those numbers that tell us...what? Time?
What is time?
According to Wikipedia, “Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future.”
While that sounds instinctively correct, it doesn't tell us much about what time actually is, does it?
|My fish tank|
Reading a bit more we see that the number (we note as the date or the time on a clock) is calculated as an event or occurrence measured from a reference.
If you know something about mathematics and science, you will know that there is such a thing as an international time standard from which all clocks derive their reference, or 'starting point' if you like. If there wasn't, there would be chaos in the world and we would have constant disputes as to when we should meet, or when something happened in history. But we don't because people started measuring time, a long time ago.
Evidence suggests that people started 'measuring' time about 6000 years ago by observing the lunar cycles.
Why did people need to know the time?
If your history is up to speed, you will remember that people were mostly farmers, or more correctly, depended on the seasons for their survival. They needed to have some kind of indication of when it would be a good time to plant food, when to expect rain, and when to look forward to the harvest.
They also used the lunar cycles for their religious ceremonies. So, we needed to know the time to survive and to give thanks to the gods for the bounty they provided.
Since then the human race's survival has taken a different turn - the concrete jungle and its rat race. So it is still a survival thing, although it is not our lives that depend on it so much anymore.
How do we measure time?
Historical records are filled with the devices that people used to measure time. Sundials, water clocks (which were surprisingly accurate), the hourglass, and mechanical clocks of various designs.
Today we measure time using an atomic clock. It is the reference standard mentioned earlier. A caesium source is used as the time reference. It is radiated with microwaves to observe the vibrations of electrons inside the Cs atom. The reference unit of measuring time is the second.
The Global Positioning System of satellites are used to synchronise clocks worldwide.
Time on a personal scale
While it is fascinating to know that we can measure time with mind-boggling accuracy, and that our ancestors didn't do that badly with their own time measuring devices, time means more than the hours, minutes, and seconds displayed on our watches.
If you watch the grains of sand flowing through an hourglass, you get the feeling that you can 'see' time flowing away. The older we get, the more we hear people say that time is going faster. Time is not going faster, it is our greater awareness of the time we have left in this life that makes us more aware of the flow of time.
We cannot change time's passage, nor can we recover or save time. We can only use time: for things that make us happy, for things that we need to survive, for things that we don't need to do.
Explore your use of time in your journal today. Are you spending your time doing things that make you happy? Useful? Productive? If not, what can you change to make that happen?
You can read many more interesting things about time in the links below.