This week I shall visit a phenomenon with which we are all familiar. It is called “Time”. It cannot be altered, reversed, or held down to linger. The inexplicable sense of motion and existence which defies semantic corralling.
As the redoubtable maxim reminds us: “Time and tide wait for no man.”
But do not imagine that I am going to inflict a philosophical or scientific treatise on this most enigmatic of human experiences. The dictionary meaning says that time is a non-spatial continuum in which events occur in irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future. That is quite a notion to get one’s brain around because it has no concrete properties that will help us to say exactly what it is.
There is some relief in the fact that it can be measured as duration in comparison to some periodic events or processes like days, months, and years. Its calibrations include memory, association, celebration and all the rites of passage that mark out the human lifespan. And that made me bold enough to tackle such an impossible and nebulous commodity which always was, ever is, and always shall be what it is.
Time is celebrated in poetry as regularly as love. Hence Andrew Marvell’s plaint to his coy mistress that “Had we but world enough and time, /This coyness, Lady, would be no crime …” Poet’s also tie the movement of the sun with time, as in the diurnal concept of day and night. And there is a beautiful song by the Alan Parsons Project which sings that “Time keeps flowing like a river, … to the sea”.
And who has not been party to the innumerable resurrections of Unchained Melody and its immortal lyrics: “Time goes by so slowly/and Time can do so much/Are you still mine…?”
We can conclude that time is a commodity available to us all, experienced in varying ways. If one is not frugal with this diaphanous and every-present reality, one could suffer dire consequences in opportunities missed, or reduced space in which to achieve a dream.
So why am I hammering on at the risk of boring my readers? The truth is one cannot reverse time in order to correct past foolishness. Nor can we make it hold still while we consider the options for the time we have left. The awareness of time is mandatory. The wasting of time is fatal. Like one’s birthday, or the simple ticking of the clocks, there is no slowing down or speeding up. It just happens, inexorably irrefutable.
It behoves us to measure success or failure using this commodity. We measure out lifespans, seasons, disasters, successes. We could “make time” for the important human activities which improve our lives. We can instil a sense of purpose by assuming how much time is available and how much can be done or achieved within a measurable amount of time.
It has taken a while for me to move towards my message for this week. It is quite simple. We are born, live out a lifetime and then we are no more. But what we do with the time, the quantity or quality over which we have no control, let us be mindful of how such a huge imponderable can be used to its greatest extent. The German philosopher Wittgenstein claims that death is not an event which occurs during one’s lifetime. Maybe so, but we can become proactive in living in a way that assumes that each day is your last, each breath your final gasp, and each heartbeat the one that precedes the flatline on the monitor.
As one poet says: “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” an exhortation for us to make the most of the one time we are given on this Earth.
Consider your choices and be prepared to accept their consequences. We have spent three decades wasting time. The time for intelligent and meaningful action is now.
* Alex Tabisher.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.