We must free ourselves from the prison of our everyday affairs and politics. – Epicurus
Time is an illusion. It serves to sort and categorize past events and imagine future ones. With past and future existing only within our minds, the present is it. Quantum physics tells us so. Buddhism says likewise. There’s only the Now.
That’s tough getting one’s head around, unless one is of the intellectual caliber of Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg, or Niels Bohr. August company. Few are in their league. I console myself knowing I have a better grasp on quantum physics than I do Leonardo’s Mona Lisa. Nevertheless, I don’t allow that to discourage me from trying to “understand” either. I’ll let artists weigh in on whether one can “understand” art.
Time is relative. It needs a point of reference to have meaning. It can crawl or zip by. Ever have a long day? No matter what it seemed, it was twenty-three hours and fifty-six minutes long.
Days are becoming longer, literally. When the earth formed, she spun on her axis every six hours. Since then, she has been slowing primarily due to tidal drag. I get that. I can write a treatise on the correlation between drag and aging. Another reason why I keep growing more connected to Ma Earth.
When future humans colonize Mars, assuming the species has survived, they might recreate the clock face. Perhaps it will retain twelve Roman numerals. A Martian hour is longer than an earth hour since a Martian day is forty-one minutes longer. Remember that the next time you’re sitting on I-70 in ski traffic. It could be worse.
In 21st-century America, days have become measurements in busy lives. Hours are short-term increments. Minutes are pocket change, something one tosses into a coin jar or tip bottle. Tempus fugit.
Seasons, though, are not fleeting. They have a different rhythm and feel than a day. Seasons are measured not by the earth’s rotation but by her gentle rocking. Slow, gradual, unhurried. They’re not quick, hurried trips to town; rather, a long road trip, an ocean voyage, a foray into the wild.
The ancient Babylonians created the practice of making New Year’s resolutions, which for them began at the vernal equinox. Their purpose was to supplicate to the gods. “I promise to …so that You will…” The Romans adopted it, neatly wrapping it with January, named for two-faced Janus, the god of doorways. Janus wasn’t two faced as we understand the idea; he was able to look back—self-reflection—and forward: intention. No Now for Janus.
When one looks at the practice of making resolutions, one wonders why at New Year’s rather than another. Time, after all, is only a figment of our collective imagination. Still, if there ought to be a common point when we collectively promise to be, live, or do better, now is a perfect time. Imbolc—Groundhog Day—is less than six weeks away.
Thus, it’s this season, rather than, say, during the harvest moon, to plant those seeds, to make resolutions about being, living, and doing better. Better than one has at…?
Here’s a thought: How about detaching from the vituperative noise that passes today as discourse?
In the movie “Becket,” which is based on T.S. Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral,” King Henry asks one of his barons if he ever thinks. “No, sire,” the baron replies. “A gentleman has better things to do.” The antithesis of Epicurus.
Free yourself from the prison of daily affairs and give or allow yourself time during which your only company is a book. No TV, computer, nor smart phone. Just you, your book, and your thoughts. “The sweet serenity,” Longfellow called it. Perhaps at sunrise or sunset.
Make your intentions with the best of intentions, not to the gods but to yourself, and begin fertilizing them. On Mars with its 687-day year, you could lollygag. But, since you’re an earthling—I’m assuming—time is fleeting.