I have a “thing” about clocks – a fascination, if you will. I’m not sure what it is about them that I like so much. I have given it some thought but there is no particular memory associated with them that would account for my attraction. Over the years I have found myself irrationally drawn to them and frequently remind myself that I do not NEED another clock. So why am I looking at one and considering taking it home? I mean you just don’t need but so many clocks. And it doesn’t have to be any special clock the lures me – like an antique grandfather hall clock or one of those beautifully hand carved cuckoo clocks – although they are both especially nice. It can be ANY clock. I’ve even stopped in the middle of Walmart to take a look at a cheap plastic battery clock. Why? I’m shrugging my shoulders. Now I’m scratching my head. Why, indeed? Perhaps in some other life I was a clock maker or the child of a clock maker. Maybe that would account for the reason I find the ticking of a clock very pleasant and, indeed, comforting. I have heard a number of folks complain about clocks that “tick too loud” or that hearing a clock tick “gets on their nerves” and it always surprises me. Most of the time I don’t even notice a clock ticking but if I do I find myself soothed by its steady rhythm. And people that have those wonderful clocks that gong on the hour and even the half hour who turn off the sound so it doesn’t wake them in the night? WHAT? WHY? I find that sound comforting as well. Hey. When I wake up in the night I always want to know what time it is anyway so why not have a clock that courteously announces the time for you? I happen to think of those clocks as a sort of sentry standing guard somewhere in the house and announcing the time to make sure you don’t miss anything.
I guess there is something mysterious about time and clocks remind me of that. The fact that at some point in the history of the Universe someone decided that we needed to measure such a thing. And is TIME a real thing? I get tracking the sun in the sky and knowing the difference between day and night but how did the Egyptians figure out that thing with the obelisks denoting high noon that divided the day in half? Somebody with a lot of time on their hands (yep. That’s a pun.) Certainly not one of those guys building the pyramids. They didn’t have time. (yep. Another pun.) And sun dials? Who thought them up and put in those lines on them for marking hours? And I don’t even want to talk about water clocks and all that nonsense. If you think about the whole concept – well, it’s all just made up – completely arbitrary. Only now most every human on the planet counts time – although not everyone sees it in exactly the same way. For example, in Thailand, they use a six hour clock and Japan marks thirty hours in a day.
I, for one, have known days and hours that seemed interminable – waiting, counting the minutes as they tick by. But on other occasions the time seemed to fly by all too quickly. Whose vacation has ever lasted long enough? Certainly children have a different perception of time than adults. I can remember bemoaning the wearisome length of a year to my grandmother – measured in my young mind by the protracted length of one Christmas to another. “Gramma, Christmas was so much fun but now we have to wait for a whole year for it to come again.”
I can see her now shaking her head and chuckling, “Honey, it will be here before you know it.” Her response was so casual. I couldn’t comprehend it. And so I reminded her, in case she hadn’t understood my plight the first time:
“But Gramma! A year is a long time!”
Her response has stayed with me all these years: “Honey, when you’re my age a year won’t seem so long.” How was that possible? Such an idea was incomprehensible to me and I pondered it for quite a while – finally storing it away to consider at a later time. And “later” has arrived. At last, I can understand her perspective – all too clearly!
Even so, there are moments that seem almost out of time – as if time has stood completely still, just waiting. Or perhaps does not exist at all. I remember one such moment vividly. My daddy had died some months before and I was at the hospital with my mama who was very ill. I had gone to the nursing station for something and on my return to the room I saw Mama lying in the hospital bed. She was frail and small and sleeping. My teenage son was seated in the chair by her bed reading a book. He had been diagnosed with autism a year or so before and we were still struggling with all that information. I stood both literally and figuratively in the doorway that day and watched the both of them. It seemed that time was standing perfectly still and I was on a precipice just waiting, wondering what was to come. The moment stretched on into infinity and I can see it even now as if it had been encased in something sacred and eternal.
Albert Einstein had quite a lot to say about time. He determined through his Theory of Relativity that time is relative; meaning the rate at which time passes depends on your frame of reference. I think we can all relate to that. Just ask a group of folks who were all engaged in the same activity at the same time how long they spent doing whatever it was they were doing and I’d venture to say you’ll get several different answers. Einstein also said you must know where you are in three dimensional space (length, width, height) as well as in the fourth dimension which is time to determine location. So if you want to know exactly where you are in the Universe you must also know what time it is. That’s certainly relative, right? Yet in 1955 Einstein wrote to the family of a friend who had recently died: “To those of us who believe in physics this separation between past, present and the future is only an illusion, albeit a stubborn one.” What in the world did he mean by that? Maybe he wasn’t all that sure about the whole business himself. One thing for sure at the moment of his own death Einstein said, “It is time to go.” And so he did.
Time Zones are another really confusing part of the whole time phenomenon. There are 24 time zones around the world or so I thought. I recently read there are as many as 40. Who came up with that trick??? I can hardly manage the time difference between Eastern (where I live) and Central Standard Time (where my nephew lives). One of my friends lives in Canada and is on Mountain Time – another time difference to figure out. When we traveled to Europe I was obsessed about what time it was everywhere we went. My head starts spinning just thinking about it. I like Jim Croce’s thinking: “if I could save time in a bottle”. That would sure be nice.
And then there’s the whole Daylight Saving Time debacle. I understand that Benjamin Franklin was the first guy to dream this up and the United States (among other countries) used this system during World War I and again in World War II as a way to save energy. However, DST was abandoned after the war in the United States but then again reinstituted via the Uniform Time Act sometime in the late 1960’s. However, Hawaii, Arizona and Puerto Rico opted out – perhaps to keep everyone on their toes. But the rest of us have been “falling back” and “springing forward” for many years. There have been plenty of arguments for and against that stressful time change over the years. For sure losing that hour of sleep in the Spring messes with our circadian rhythm and is said to account for a loss in productivity and an increase in traffic accidents. Just recently Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla) along with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) proposed a bill to end changing the time twice a year and making DST permanent. Of course, the House has yet to approve it but for this one glorious moment in time the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have unanimously agreed on something! Quite miraculous, in my opinion. And it’s about time!