Thursday, 03 January 2008

The Concept of Time

A New Year has arrived. Not for the first time! The cycle repeats itself over and over. Yet year after year, time after time. As the clock strikes midnight, the world fills with with the sounds of joy and celebration.

In our concept of time, a year is an entity in itself. What may in reality be a human construct, an arbitrary demarcation in the eternal scheme of things, becomes a great reality to us. Time for a new start. Time to put the dissapointments of the last year behind us. "Maybe this year will be better than the last" is the hope permeating mankind.

The concept of time is one that encompases the very nature of the world and the universe. We measure time in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries and milleniums. But even without measurement, the world keeps on turning. The new replaces the old. That time is relative is not in question. On a different planet time may move more slowly. To G-d, a thousand years may be like a second, but our concept of time is governed by the way we experience it.

In the words of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards "Time waits for no one and it won't wait for me" (the Rolling Stones, 1974).

Our universe is bound by time. We can never stop the hands of time from moving on, taking us through the journey of life. Everything happens in time. The world will turn, the seasons will change. New life is born, grows and eventually dies. People change, countries change, governments change. It happens in time.

An ancient story is told about King Solomon. He sought out a ring that would be able to affect the very spiritual being of man. A ring that would be able to make a happy man sad and a sad man happy. Eventually, a ring was brought. There were three Hebrew letters engraved upon it - G, Z and Y. King Solomon saw the letters and instantly grasped the meaning. The letters signified the Hebrew words Gam Ze Yaavor - This Too Shall Pass. When reaping the rewards of success, it reminds us that this too shall pass. When success eludes us and we are suffering in the depths of despair, again we are reminded that this too shall pass.

This reveals one of the greatest truths. The circular nature of life and time. Look at the ring in good times. Look at it in bad times. At all times we must realise that this too must pass. Success, failure, pleasure and suffering. All are transitory. All will pass. Time will move on and even catastrophic events will disappear in history.

In Judaism, round apples are dipped in honey to symbolise the circularity of time at the New Year. Round foods are eaten after a funeral to remind us of the circular nature if life.

Since the most ancient times, man has found ways of measuring time. The rotation of the earth and our annual journey around the sun provide us with days and years. The moon has provided months. We divide the day into hours, minutes and seconds. Sunset to sunset. Sunrise to sunrise.

We have created calendars to chart the passage of time. We have the time clockThe calendar is filled with special dates that we can remember. Dates that signify events, birthdays, anniversaries and deaths. Dates that signify the passing of years, festivals, political and religious holidays.

Everything in life can change. We journey through time through the seasons of life. There is no destination. Time continues to move on. Everything happens in time. Opportunity, luck, disaster, success and failure can only happen in time. Once it has passed there is no going back. "If only I had known ... " is a common refrain. But there is only one way and that is forward. Forward through time.

No comments: