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Silver Surfer Articles
41. The Passing of Time

Considering the fact that time is a commodity and we Silver Surfers have more of it than many other people, I am slightly surprised, looking back through the Contents list of these articles that we have not looked at this subject more. In article 36 we did briefly mention ‘Anchoring Time’ but beyond that it is something that has largely escaped the notice of these pages.

These thoughts were triggered by a very simple little occurrence recently. My wife had a new book and seeing it lying on a coffee table I picked it up and browsed the first few pages. Now inadvertently I had glanced at a digital clock as I sat down and after a brief moment or two of perusing these pages, I went to put the book down and glanced at the clock again to be almost shocked that seven minutes had passed. I thought I had only read for about half a minute!
Now I think I have conveyed on these pages in the past that I believe we get more fun and enjoyment in life when we become more aware of life and of what is happening around us. So here is my question: do we take note of the odd ways life seems to hiccup in respect of time?

Whether time actually exists or whether it is simply the way we speak of the passing of events has been the focus of many a philosophical or even scientific discussion. Great minds have bent their intellects in this direction with vary degrees of success. I’m not going down their path.

Most of us have heard about the book, A Brief History of Time, written by Stephen Hawking. I won’t even try to describe its objective. A reasonably bright friend of mine read it and then said, “I think I might have understood less than ten per cent of what he wrote.” As it is a book that has been on best seller lists for over four years, it strikes me that this book has caused more people to spend time reading words they don’t understand than virtually any other book in existence. How much ‘time’ has been stolen from people’s lives by this book?

That is a fear I have and it’s built on the basis of my memories of the past, (which we have considered more than once on these pages) and if you don’t get it from the paragraph above, it is the question – when I get to the end of my life, will I look back and consider I have squandered or wasted the time I had? I know that is starting to sound really philosophical but us arm chair philosophers can do this. Put it another way, in front of me today is a day made up of a certain number of hours. Being a retired Silver Surfer I have greater say over how I will use my ‘time’ than most. Being reasonably comfortably well off I have a certain freedom of choice about what to do.

I recently sat around a dinner table listening to the dinner chat from a group of ‘friends’ but couldn’t help thinking, “What are we all doing with our lives? Will we get to a point where we face death and look back and think, ‘What did I achieve with the time available to me? Did I just fill it in playing golf, watching TV, going out for meals, travelling?’ Is the world a better place because of the way I have used my time?” Sorry, but it did happen like that and I wonder how many others of us feel like that?  It’s fertile ground for thought.

Let’s get back on a lighter vein. I like the definition, "time is what clocks measure".  It was a clock that set me off on this train of thought and sometimes it is only a clock that anchors us in reality. I’ve always been able to take a nap in the middle of the day to recharge the batteries; I’m normally up fairly early and so a little recharging over the one o’clock news on TV doesn’t come amiss. I might even say to my wife, “I’m just going to have five minutes,” and that is what I really intend, but every now and then I have an experience that makes me wonder about time. I drop off and a minute later come to wakefulness muttering, “I knew I wasn’t going to sleep!” except I look at the clock and forty minutes have passed! It felt like one! If time travel was a possibility, would we be aware of the length of time or would it be just a passing second? Answers on a postcard please to.....

I ran across some old friends at a Golden Wedding anniversary of theirs. I was jolted when, as we talked, I realised that twenty seven years had passed since we did most of our stuff together. Then I got talking with one of their daughters who, in my reflections at least, I think of as still a teenager until she points across the room at her own two teenage children, and again I am jolted by time passing. I came across some pictures in a magazine the other day and there was Cliff Richard. I can go back to ‘Living Doll’ with him and so as much as you might like to keep him in your memory as this bright young singer – he’s seventy three this year! Then there is Mick Jagger who was recently strutting his stuff for over two hours at Glastonbury – and he’s just coming up, later this week, to his seventieth birthday as I write. “Scrap the memories,” the aging reality screams at us, “Time is passing!”

I also like the definition, "time is what keeps everything from happening at once". It sounds simple but it has some real ramifications. One of the things I have noticed about a number of friends when they retire is that they suddenly get busy. On more than one occasion I have heard the comment, “I don’t know how I had the time to live before I retired!” You would expect us to just be able to sit around and do nothing and wonder how to fill up our time, but for so many it seems, it is a case of “I need more time!” Maybe not everyone is like this, maybe this is just a reflection on the sort of people I so often meet. Perhaps it also reflects on the affluent age in which we live and the expectations we have of it.

I suppose another aspect of this time thing is that we don’t know how much of it we have left. I have pondered on this on these pages before, but it is a valid part of such a reflection. It won’t apply to all of us obviously, but the average length of a person’s life is increasing all the time. What is interesting is that recent research seems to suggest we are using are minds more in old age than people used to, and our minds tend to be more agile than someone of like age but say twenty years ago. Fitter, healthier, more active, more agile mind, so what can I do with the time ahead of me? Perhaps a greater fruit bearing question might be, what is stealing my time or what is wasting my time and how can I stop that? Akin to that, how can I get more value out of my time? Or, what more can I achieve with my time? If any of those questions resonate with you, it shows you are a very different person from those of your age but who lived fifty years ago.

I came across this illustration somewhere, some time back in time:

There was an expert on the subject of time management speaking to a group of business students. As he stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers, he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide mouthed jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”
Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.
Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them said.
“Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.
Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”
One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”
“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all. What are the big rocks of your life?”
I think it’s all about priorities. Relationships? People?

As always, to finish on a lighter note, here are some light hearted quotes about time:

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.
Abraham Lincoln 

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
C. S. Lewis 

Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.
Bill Keane 

Waste your money and you're only out of money, but waste your time and you've lost a part of your life.
Michael LeBoeuf 

People who cannot find time for recreation are obliged sooner or later to find time for illness.
John Wanamaker 

Don’t regret the things you didn’t do; realise you can’t change the past but you can change today and the future.

Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Susan Ertz

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for it is the stuff life is made of.
Benjamin Franklin