Sunday, March 14, 2010
Time, the flexible dimension
[From Joel] I was lying in bed this morning noting that the clock somehow had not sprung forward. I lay there thinking about time and in particular about waiting. At the moment, I'm waiting for some oral surgery to heal and anticipating the moment when I can eat some serious solid food. There's nothing like waiting for a wound to heal to turn your attention to how much of our lives are spent in anticipation of a future event.
Generally speaking, I try to avoid waiting. If there's a long line to go to a movie or participate in a buffet, I'll forgo the film or go hungry before I'll wait on line. But, waiting to heal is not something voluntary and sometimes the discomfort doesn't let you do other things that would normally let you ignore the wait. There seem to be at least two approaches to such a situation. Some people "bitch and moan" to pass the time while others just curl into a ball and make the world go away.
We have various interesting expressions concerning waiting. We sometimes call a hobby or a sport like golf a "pastime" from the French "passe temps," literally "pass the time way." Obviously, pastimes are diversions (another French word) which distract the mind from focusing on what seems like the interminable wait until we achieve our end state. The trouble is that sometimes the "diversion" is just that. It relieves the pain of waiting but also postpones or even prevents the achievement of the goal. Beer parties keep one's mind off waiting to complete one's education, but graduation never arrives for many who overindulge. We use the expressions "time marches on" and "time and tide wait for no man." Humans, like most animals and plants, have biological rhythms, known as circadian rhythms, which are controlled by a biological clock and work on a daily time scale. These affect body temperature, alertness, appetite, hormone secretion etc. as well as sleep timing. Our illusion of time slowing down or speeding up in emergencies is at conflict with our biological clock. Or is it?