"[Humans] alone use the relative movements of the Solar System's components to organise our own commitments."

#Opinion

Thu, Jun 14th, 2012 21:00 by capnasty NEWS

Long but fascinating read by Professor Raymond Tallis on time. Or rather, while "all beings (pebbles, trees, monkeys etc) are in some sense 'in' time -- immersed or perhaps dissolved in it" only human beings time what happens to their lives.

We portion time into days, and number days, and parts of days, and know that our days are numbered. One striking illustration of this is that of all the occupants of the Solar System -- rocks, trees, lemurs, etc -- we alone use the relative movements of the Solar System's components to organise our own commitments. What a delicious piece of cheek to appropriate the rotation of the Earth round the Sun to instruct us when to do what -- for example, when to have our Christmas dinner. To vary a saying of Douglas Adams: "Time is mysterious; tea-time doubly so."

So we should not allow objections to the reduction of time to little t to allow us to overlook the mysterious activity of 'timing', or the extraordinary truth that despite the gap between lived and measured time, measuring it has enabled us (via science and technology) to extend, protect, enrich and enhance our existence -- indeed, to have the time of our lives. "Measurement began our might" as the poet William Yeats said: it extended our powers beyond anything that could be imagined by our pre-numerate ancestors.

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