“We say that time is money, meaning both are valuable. Both are a form of power. Usually, there is a reciprocal relationship between them; that is, abundance of money seems to go along with a shortage of time, and abundance of time with shortage of money. Money is the wealth of the materialist, and works miracles in the realm of the physical. Time is the wealth of the pilgrim, and works miracles in all realms.”
In weekday morning traffic anywhere in America it is possible to observe and be wary of drivers talking and texting on their cell phones, tailgating those observing speed limits and passing at every available space in the bumper to bumper traffic as if the 30 seconds sooner they will reach their destinations are the most important moments in the history of time.
As if time has a history.
Or a future.
From one perspective such timeless observations of our fellow traffic-bound humans are hilarious, from another alarming. From any perspective they are worthy of contemplation and self-reflection. As a practical matter, clocks and calendars regulate the everyday life of most of mankind around the sequence of events we call time; but practicality and essential reality are not always on the same schedule, as the old adage “Timing is everything” points out. Time is a concept, not a fixed reality, as relativity theory describes. Time is conceived by many as a commodity to be bartered and traded and consumed like pork bellies, or a storehouse to be filled to the rafters with the toys of experience or the juicy fruits of labor. I prefer the perspective of Henry David Thoreau who said both, “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in,” and “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
There are natural regulators called ‘biological clocks’ that govern aging and the rhythms of behavior, circadian cycles governing daily temperature and metabolism, and electrical rhythms in the human brain including the most prominent known as ‘alpha rhythms. But scientific efforts to locate a specific area of the brain that controls man’s sense of time have been unsuccessful. The concept of measured time is, thus, a human construct, a nifty piece of conceptual engineering.
The work of Einstein and others show that time is relative to the observer, causing the view of time as an independent entity to give way to the concept that space and time are intertwined and inseparable. Ultimately, it seems to me, the human concept of time is a mystery like life itself, best and most nutritiously experienced by slowing down and appreciating the moment rather than missing it in a race to reach a future destination 30 seconds sooner.
Eckhart Tolle perhaps expressed it best: “Most people treat the present moment as if it were an obstacle that they need to overcome. Since the present moment is life itself, it is an insane way to live.”