Time waits for no one
“And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.”
– Pink Floyd, (Time, 1973)
Physics of time
If we were to step outside of the universe and its paradigm – it is argued by some physicists that we would see our life as distinctive selves and passing moments – and yet each existing at a different point of time.
Every now determines the future, a future that is out of our reach.
So in that context if we were to step outside our cosmos – outside both time and space – and look at our life we are apt to peruse our births, deaths, and every moment of our existence laid out at key, distinctive points. This would mean time is a constant and not a force of constant motion and change and thereby is static and fixed one might say.
“Time no longer appears to us as a gigantic, world-dominating chronos, nor as a primitive entity, but as something derived from phenomena themselves. It is a figment of my thinking.”
– Erwin Schrödinger
Which would mean that our concept of time as an ever flowing from one point to another – say from the past towards the future is only an illusion.
In quantum physics it is argued that the future itself isn’t set until we evaluate and measure a quantum object at which point its state becomes fixed. Quantum physicists declare that time isn’t divided into discrete quanta like other perceived aspects of reality.
As per our perception time is like an ever-flowing river or stream. Life moves forward and time ushers us on from one frame to another.
There is a clear-cut disconnect between our perception of time and physics. Although there are physicists who do agree that time did have a beginning and that it is measured and came into being after the proverbial “Big Bang Theory”.
The arrow of time
Astronomer-philosopher Sir Arthur Eddington in 1927 depicted the gradual display of energy as the evidence of time being an irreversible arrow. The arrow of time therefore deals with the asymmetry of time more in line with our perceptions that time moves forward from an immutable past, through the present, and towards an unknown unfixed future.
The second law of thermodynamics speaks of a thermodynamics system and within it a physical property which is entropy. It is a physical law that is not symmetric to the reversal of time direction, and the laws of “heat” and “power” as per the words thermo meaning heat and dynamic meaning power. So, in essence this theory tells us that while quantities stay the same that the quality of energy/matter deteriorates in time.
Stoics and time
“The part of life we really live is small. For all the rest of existence is not life, but merely time.”
– Seneca (On The Shortness of Life, Chapter II)
For the ancient Stoics, time is something more metaphysical. A point of location between being and non-being. Stoics contemplated and factored-in that time is more of an elaborate account of the psychological and subjective experience of the dimension of motion and its rhythm which are subject to change. There is a constancy of change. Everything we perceive is subject to change and we know that nothing remains the same in the long run. Whether it’s our thoughts, our bodies, sensations, sentiments, beliefs, others as well as ourselves, social systems, the world, and even the universe is constantly changing.
That time is an ever-flowing river and our lives are caught in its momentum and motion of change. We cannot fight change and the more we try and fight it, the more we will waste our lives and the resource of time.
Time in this case is relegated and related to change. Ergo, by understanding what change is and embracing it, we may be able to reach a level of psychological harmony with life and nature as we know it.
Managing our greatest resource
“Death created time to grow the things that it would kill, and you are reborn but into the same life that you’ve always been born into.”
– Rust Cohle (True Detective, Season 1)
Rather macabre, sure. A little morose, yes. But it is beautiful as it is evocative. But the bitter truth is that we will all die. And on our deathbeds, we shouldn’t have regrets and at that point think of all the time and life we wasted.
As humanity, whatever our beliefs, the one thing we can all agree on is that life is short and our greatest gift and that time is our most valued resource that is scarce.
There is no separating the two. Time affects life. And all things in life are in conjunction and confluence with time.
Then why do we waste so much of either?
And what can we do to better manage our time so we make our lives more meaningful, and manage our lives so that we do meaningful things with the limited time we have on this planet.
Perhaps time isn’t short as Seneca once wrote but rather that we waste a great deal of it. And the more time we waste, the more life we waste.
- Stop avoiding and postponing responsibilities
We look for excuses and escapism to avoid facing the realities of life. We develop unhealthy life choices, disruptive lifestyles, disgruntling perceptions, disconcerting attitudes and mindsets, and destructive habits and just slip into this linear pattern of simply going with the flow. If we would address our own issues and begin to take small steps towards improving and changing the stuff we can to better ourselves – then we can start to replace the poor habits with more purposeful and meaningful choices that will ensure we put our lives and the time we have to better use. If you have duties and responsibilities don’t delay or derail them for another time. Deal with them at that moment so your responsibilities don’t stack up.
Remember procrastination is one of the biggest evils of our life.
- Spend time on meaningful things and that which matters
“Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”
– Epictetus (Discourses)
Devote your thoughts, talents, abilities, capabilities, and time to things that bring you fulfilment and joy. Instead of looking for shortcuts and quick fixes, take your time to master something that you have a natural gift for or something that you love doing and work towards it.
I have a saying of my own: “The more you do something you become good at it. The more you do something well you become great at it.”
You must let go of ego and abandon your yearning to rush into things and learn patience. With patience, invest in the things that will bring you fulfilment and contentment. A day at a time. But start somewhere and work towards it every day of your life. Not only will you grow happier with yourself, but it will hone your resolve and sharpen your outlook in life so that you can tackle and face other challenges with more fervour, vigour, and grace.
- Take a pause and appreciate what you have
We spend countless hours and precious moments bludgeoning ourselves and wasting time on stuff that we don’t have in life. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, let’s try and start being appreciative for what we do have; the gift of life, family, friends, certain talents, lessons learned that make us better human beings, and creatures of this world and those special moments that bring us joy and bliss no matter how infinitesimal they may appear. So, pause and take in the good things and blessings you have in life. With gratitude comes healthy self-gratification and with self-gratification will come progressive self-evolution.
- Break the cycle
Taking calculated risks are important in life. Taking chances and trying out new things to break away from your pattern will rejuvenate you. The idea here is to break the routine and go outside your comfort zones once every while. Disrupt the pattern. Surprise yourself. Push yourself to tick off something on your bucket list on occasion. Take a vacation. Go watch a movie. Socialise if it makes you happy. Do something adventurous you’ve always wanted to but have never tried out. Manage and make time for yourself to live your life outside your conventional landscape.
- Meaningful change, purposeful choices
In accordance with what I mentioned before, it is a pointless thing to keep hauling the regrets of our past with us everywhere we do at present, as it will limit the potential of what we could fulfil and achieve in the future. We cannot change the past, in fact we aren’t heading in reverse but moving forward in life. We can choose to direct our focus on letting go of that which we cannot change, learn from those things, apply it to the present condition, and manage ourselves to make meaningful changes with purposeful choices so the future is better and a little bit brighter.
(The writer is the frontman and lyricist of Stigmata, a creative consultant and brand strategist by profession, a self-published author and poet, thespian, animal rescuer, podcaster, and fitness enthusiast)
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.