Time is a common phenomenon that is intricately interwoven in our daily lives but what is it? Many questions arise when time is mentioned. For instance, is it the change that we see in the mirror when we look at the footprints of time on our everchanging faces?
But if we cannot see, taste or touch it how can we measure time? You have heard someone say, I am buying time – how do you buy something that you cannot see? In ‘real’ time is one paradoxical statement, what is not ‘real’ time then?
If time can move forward; why can’t it move backwards? Since time immemorial, human beings have endeavored to tinker with time, creating time machines which can move forward or backwards. Sadly, this is only in works of fiction.
Time appears to be perceived differently in various parts of the world. This is clear in the way it is measured. Your keeping in sync with it determines your pay, livelihood, social interactions and almost everything else. In some cultures, time keeping is a sign of good upbringing and the amount of activities one can manage to squeeze in a given period of time can earn them the tag of “successful.” The faster you are, the better. Japan is said to be the fastest nation with the United States following closely in time consciousness. On the contrary, the Piraha people in the Amazon forest ‘only’ live in the present and do not care about time and its passage.
How one perceives time can as well be influenced by the country’s economy – the more industrialised, the more valuable time is regarded. So is the climate where one stays. Apparently, people who stay in hotter places tend to take it slower, perhaps because of the toll that the heat can take on one’s energy levels. Also, the buildup of social fabric of society counts; societies that have extended families relying on each other, say for activities like eating meals together, will be more tolerant of those not keeping strict time; well as in other societies where people do things as individuals their eye is mostly on time and what can be achieved in it in terms of money.
Despite the various perceptions, there is a common question. What is the end of time? Although scientists have varied answers there is no sure one. However, Christians continue to confidently assert that the end of time will surely come with Jesus’ return to earth! So what is time?
Lois Nakibuuka is an educator and counsellor