A Treatise on the Passage of Time

We departed Standard Time on March 13 at 2:00 a.m. We will return to Standard Time on November 6 at 2:00 a.m. That change in clock has disturbed my patterns. I was used to getting up no later than 5:00 a.m., but the time change disrupted my habit, causing me to sleep in until 6:00 a.m. No, that’s wrong. My habit stayed the same; the world around me altered the reality it occupies, leaving me to adjust and adapt. I wake at approximately the same moment each day, as measured by the juxtaposition between the Earth and the sun.  But when I wake, the clocks have all raced ahead by an hour. That leaves me with fewer moments of divine serenity and more moments of bitter anger at having to adjust to what seems like the madness of the human race. Goddamn clocks! They are the spawn of Satan, I tell you. They behave like silent dictators, urging us to be quick about whatever tasks have been assigned to us. But we’ve done it to ourselves. Nature has not commanded us to alter the clocks. The Universe does not annually declare an hour lost or an hour gained; human create that artificial magic ourselves. We behave as if we control time, as opposed to the reverse, which we know all too well is true.

I vacillate between believing: 1) Time is an artificial construct devised by humans insistent on regimenting their lives and; 2) Time is simply the manner in which humans measure and record sequential experiences. Both beliefs ignore how other creatures, including trees and dogs and, in olden days, dinosaurs, experience what we call Time. One of the “official” definitions of Time is quite similar to one of my belief patterns: “the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.” The concept of Time consumes more of my contemplative moments than others around me, I think. Other people seem to think Time is a rather boring subject that does not merit much more than a passing thought or two…every sixty years or so. I, on the other hand, think Time, whether real or artificial, is among the most important influences to which we  humans are exposed. Time deserves our deep, reverential thought; reverential in the secular sense of “touched with awe” or “deeply venerated.”

Time, juxtaposed with experience, tends to cause some people to believe certain events were “meant to be.” That is, if Experience X had not happened during Time Z, then Outcome Q would not have occurred. Others are free to believe what they wish, but I see no evidence that Outcome Q was “meant to be.” Outcome Q was merely coincidental to the intersection of Time Z and Experience X. There is no predetermination involved in that coincidental intersection; it’s not predetermination, it’s simply random chance.

If I had engaged Person A in conversation at Time M, instead of engaging Person B in conversation at Time M, I might have developed a romantic relationship with Person A instead of Person B, in spite of Person A’s marital relationship with Person D, as witnessed and blessed by the State of Y. Excuse the attempt at humor; sometimes a dry subject is made more palatable with the infusion of tasty humor. Or even tasteless humor. But I hope I’ve made my point; Outcome Q always is, to a greater or lesser extent, random. We can influence outcomes, but when we do we introduce an external variable that effectively mutates Outcome Q into Outcome Q1⁄2 or Q3⁄4. That is to say, there is no divine causation; only randomness that morphs into different experiences. Outcome Q may never occur because the direction of its randomness may be impacted by an external force. Like a pool ball heading toward a pocket that is suddenly hit by another ball, causing the pool ball to change course and slam into a pocket on the opposite end of the table.


I tend to attempt humor when I am in a morose mood. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it has the opposite effect; like telling a joke at a friend’s funeral and watching the room dissolve into a chorus of unrestrained grief at the memory of the dead person’s ability to make people laugh.


It is after 9:00 a.m. and I have done nothing productive today, other than wash and dry a load of laundry in the predawn darkness. Since then, nothing of consequence. I cannot seem to get motivated to do anything, despite wanting desperately to get the new house finished so we can move in and put this one on the market. It just takes time. As in Time. The juxtaposition of Time with experience. What utter drivel! If I still had my appendix, I would remove it myself, without anesthesia to dull the pain of slicing myself open with a dull, rusted razor blade. Something to motivate me! Self-imposed threats do not seem to work. If threats do not work, perhaps I’ll resort to torture. The appendix thing. Will I do it? Time will tell.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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