Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Untimely Understanding 10/07/09

12:15:51 AM EDT

Untimely Understanding

Time is but a ship that bears thee, not thy home.


Oh God! methinks it were a happy life,
To be no better than homely swain;
To sit upon a hill, as I do now,
To carve out dials quaintly, point to point,
Thereby to see the minutes how they run,
How many make the hour full complete;
How many hours bring about the day;
How many days will finish up the year;
How many years a mortal man may live.
When this is done, then to divide the times:
So many hours must I tend my flock;
So many hours must I take my rest;
So many hours must I contemplate;
So many hours must I sport myself;
So many days my ewes have been with young;
So many weeks ere the poor fools will ean;
So many years ere I shall shear the fleece:
So minutes, hours, days, months, and years,
Pass'd over to the end they were created,
Would bring white hairs unto a quiet grave.


Time is a mortal measurement, a human idea. We measure it by space, how long it takes something to go from one place to another in comparison with how long it takes another object to do the same. The universe does not concern itself with time.

Why shouldn't the church bell ring 13? Because we have determined that a day is 2 sets of 12, 7 of those make a week and 52 of those make a year. But it's inaccurate, which is why we have to have the paradox of a leap year now and then. Why doesn't the earth revolve around the sun according to the nice neat pattern we have determined for it? Because the solar system does not concern itself with time.

People look through crystal telescopes at what they say is the past, stars which no longer exist but are only now announcing their light to us, because they were so many billion light years away, also a human measurement. Another person looks through a crystal ball at what he says is the future and what he sees is a projection of the unconscious thoughts that already exist in his mind.

The philosopher Hans Jonas was fond of citing the Psalmist's prayer "Teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom." That statement implies that the information is already known. The obverse side suggests that Jonas wanted to know how many hours of daylight he had to accomplish what he wanted to do in life. The reverse side may suggest that he wanted to know when the moment would be that he would surrender his "white hairs unto a quiet grave."

I have a seed I picked up off a grassy field with some tall trees in it. The seed is about the size of a golf ball, A botanist I know looked at it, told me what kind of a tree it came from and then explained that everything about that tree was already contained in the seed. The seed knows how tall the tree will grow, what it will look like, haw many branches it will have, how many twigs, how many leaves it will put out and how long it will live. The future of the tree already exists in the present seed.

So we can measure water levels, pollen counts, wind chill factors, topical storm categories and measure out our lives "in coffee spoons" (T. S. Eliot) or by any other means only to find that nature is (benignly or malevolently) indifferent and uninterested in our efforts. The sun and the earth identify themselves to each other, The moon talks to the ocean, the flowers listen to the sun. The ground welcomes the rain when it comes. And we, with our rulers, scales and "dials," are simply eavesdroppers in this cosmic conversation.

DB - Vagabonf Journeys

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