natural time


I am saving a lot of money by running my electrical system less at night and more during the hours that the sun shines. I have avoided buying any gasoline whatsoever since my solar system was repaired.

My biological clock, however, has not made the transition. I am still awakening early in the morning before sunrise, and I am finding that the wee morning hours pass much more slowly without the distraction of access to the Internet or the use of my computer keyboard for writing.

This is a demonstration of what we have known for at least a hundred years (since Einstein) that time is relative, but we have probably known it long before that. I have observed this truism in my own life for at least thirty years, ever since I eschewed the use of a wristwatch in favor of observing the positions of the sun, moon, stars, and seasons to estimate the time of any given day.

(I have always relied on mechanical time in the keeping of appointments, but more as a confirmation of my estimates based on natural time. Belt and braces.)

On reflection, I would say that the biggest thing which encouraged me to move to a more naturalistic conception of time was having come to the conclusion that linear time, based on the Judeo-Christian Bible, is illusory and an artificial human invention. The ancients (including the Incas, Mayans, Hopi and other Native American tribes, plus the Babylonians, ancient Greeks, Romans, Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, etc.) more rightly had a concept of a wheel of time that regards time as cyclic and consisting of repeating ages that happen to every being in the Universe between birth and extinction.

Even the most accurate timekeeping devices, atomic clocks (which are accurate to seconds in many millions of years), are cyclical at their heart. They use the spin property of atoms as their basis, and the International System of Measurements bases its unit of time, the second, on the properties of cesium atoms.

Linear and mechanical time works reasonably well on an everyday practical level, but as a paradigm, it prevents us from seeing the repeating patterns which give life its more subtle and important meaning.

But we have strayed far from my first observation that time seems to move more slowly in the early hours of the morning. I will freely admit that this perception (or failure) is entirely mine. Since the stroke I am no longer able to read books, write by hand, or partake of other distractions that do not rely on electricity. As a result, I concentrate on the gradually-changing glow in the eastern sky, which is much like watching a pot of water as I wait for it to boil.

“A watched pot never boils” is one of the homely proverbs that’s ascribed to Poor Richard, which was the pseudonym Benjamin Franklin used when publishing his widely popular annual almanac. Franklin, a tireless and industrious polymath, was fixated on such aphorisms and published them between 1732 and 1758.

Perhaps if I were to heed Poor Richard’s advice, I might be shown a better way through the early morning hours. The sun won’t really rise any more quickly than it is supposed to, but it may seem to do so.

Here is a selection:

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Lost time is never found again.

He that can have patience can have what he will.

You may delay, but time will not.

Time is money.

If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality.

Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.

Dost thou love me? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.

Take time for all things: great haste makes great waste.

One today is worth two tomorrows.


cyclical time 3 cropped


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