Monday, January 31, 2011

My Weird Notions about Time

A lot of people follow my blog; but beyond my bio, most people know little about me. On the one hand, I'm just a regular guy who has served his country, works hard trying to make a contribution, loves his family and friends, and is an avid sports fan.

On the other hand, in some ways I'm eccentric. For example, my relation to time...

First off, I'm a little weird about clocks and watches. I don't wear one. For two reasons. First, I think of mechanical time as a petty, confining concept. An hour can seem like a minute, or an hour can seem like a month. So I don't need some device strapped to my arm telling me about the hours and minutes. And I don't want my train of thought interrupted every hour and half-hour by some big, noisy antique clock.

Also, the whole world is geared to mechanical time, so time is displayed all around me everywhere I go. It shows perpetually on my computer screen, where I spend most of my day. When I watch TV I can see the time with a click of the remote. It's on the alarm clock in the bedroom and it's on the oven in the kitchen. When I leave the house, it's LED-displayed in my car, on signs in front of banks and on the walls inside of every building. I can even see time displayed while swimming laps in the YMCA pool. With reminders of time everywhere I go, wearing time on my wrist seems extreme to me. I know, I know - my attitude is a little outside the box.

The one exception, I wear a cheap sports watch whenever I travel. I want to make sure I'm always at the gate when my flight is boarding.

The second bit of time-weirdness: I'm fascinated with spans of time the human mind has a hard time comprehending. One is what my sister-in-law calls "geological time." She likes to say things like, "This river valley took a million years to form." A million years? Who can imagine a million years? People have a hard time imagining a century. A million years is 10,000 centuries. A million years ago, our ancestors were learning to climb down from trees and stand upright.

My weirdness is that I try. Besides, a million years isn't that long in geological time. At the bottom of the Grand Canyon are layers of rock that are 500 million years old. And that gets me into cosmic scales of time. Our star was formed a little over 4.5 billion years ago, and our moon was formed when a small planet collided with a hot, molten Earth a little over 4 billion years ago. And all this fits in context with the approximate age of our universe: 13.7 billion years. I want to appreciate these time scales because it's the real, true perspective of the planet where I live. My Earth home has a fascinating history. If I close my mind to it, I don't appreciate things as they are. So I'm interested. I think and rethink this time perspective until I grasp it. If you say that's weird, fine. You won't get an argument from me.

Third, I see my own life-time as the tiniest blink in time. My brief time as a person is running out so fast I can feel it rushing by me like the wind. I'll be old, dying and then dead before I know it. This gives me a sense of urgency to learn what I want to learn and do what I want to do as quickly as I can. I think this valuing of time is appropriate. Wasting time doesn't make sense to me anymore.

I wasn't always this way. When I was younger, I used to suffer fools a lot more easily and horse around with meaningless B.S., just like everyone else. But now, things like small talk make me nervous. Introduce yourself to me, and in five minutes I'll be asking you what disturbed you in your early teenage years. A lot of people find that weird, but it's my way.

Well, that's enough about me, at least for now. If you're still reading, that qualifies you as a kind, tolerant person, so chances are you don't have a problem with my weirdness. If so, I appreciate it.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength . (Permission to use graphic purchased from

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Sounds like you would be about as much fun at a cocktail party as I am! (That's a compliment, by the way. . .)