“People have no idea what time is. They think it’s a line, spinning out from three seconds behind them, then vanishing just as fast into the three seconds of fog just ahead. They can’t see that time is one spreading ring wrapped around another, outward and outward until the thinnest skin of Now depends for its being on the enormous mass of everything that has already died.” Douglas Powers
I had just finished a run and was standing on the front porch with my dog Benji, staring off into space. It was raining, a cold, late fall sort of rain.
Suddenly, a tiny gray and white puffball streaked across my field of vision and landed on the birch tree next to the porch. It was a kinglet. The first of the season. Kinglets live here only in the winter. For them, this is South. Apparently, Lititz, Pennsylvania is the kinglet version of Miami Beach.
Kinglets are carnivores. They eat insects. Even on the coldest days, they somehow find spiders, insect eggs and moth caterpillars to feed on. They weigh about as much as a nickel.
This is how we humans mark time; we notice the date we see the first kinglet, the first snowflake, the first robin of spring. Seeing the kinglet made me think about the passage of time.
Time is a topic studied by only a very few scientists, mostly physicists. It’s something we take for granted, the linear passage of time, but it’s really not always linear at all.
Gravity affects time. That means that a massive object like the earth causes time to warp, which means that time runs slower near the surface of the earth than, say, at the top of the Empire State Building. This is yet another benefit of renting a penthouse apartment in a very tall building. The GPS that you use to get from point A to Point B or the one you wear on your wrist to map your run depends on this phenomenon.
Scientists believe that time began at the Big Bang and travels irreversibly in only one direction, from past to present to future. That’s why we can remember the past but we can’t remember the future.
The irreversibility of time is a big drawback if you ask me (but no one ever has). There have been quite a few instances where I would like to go five minutes back into the past and have a do-over.
There is a concept called entropy, which is a fancy, scientific name for disorder. According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, entropy always increases in a system over time.
Entropy is why you can scramble an egg, but you can’t unscramble it. An egg has low entropy; a scrambled egg has high entropy. Entropy, like time, travels in one direction. I don’t know why scientists don’t just call entropy “disorder” or even “messiness“. I suspect it’s just to confuse us.
At the beginning of the universe, entropy was very low. It has been increasing ever since. That’s why there is no time before the Big Bang. This is the point at which entropy was equal to zero, a perfectly ordered universe. Talking about the time before the Big Bang would be like asking “What is north of the North Pole?”
This is also the reason why, when I was a teacher, my desk was perpetually covered with papers, seemingly strewn about in a haphazard manner. Oh, I had them arranged in a neat pile at one time, but entropy caused them to rearrange themselves into a jumbled heap. A colleague of mine used to ask me if a paper bomb went off on my desk. “Entropy,” I would reply, sadly shaking my head.
Stephen Hawking, near the end of his remarkable life, thought and wrote about time. The universe is made of essentially three things: mass, energy, and space.
If you consider Einstein’s (E = mc2) equation, energy and mass are interchangeable, so that means there are really only two ingredients that make up our universe, energy and space. “At the moment of the Big Bang, an entire universe came into existence, and with it, space. It all inflated like a big balloon being blown up,” Hawking wrote.
Hawking may have thought about time more than any other human being. Not only was he a brilliant scientist, but he also suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, for which he was diagnosed in his 20s.
He was not expected to survive much beyond 30. Time was precious to him, so he made a conscious decision to appreciate every moment, to explore the universe with his mind, and to make each second count. “After my expectations had been reduced to zero, every new day became a bonus, and I began to appreciate everything I did have,” he explained.
Hawking died in March at age 76, far outliving all predictions of his life expectancy.
We all have a limited amount of time. Even though we may not live day to day with an imminent death sentence as Hawking did, our time here on earth is finite.
Living our lives passionately and intentionally, as Hawking did, allows us to make the most of the time we have.
Each day is a gift. There is nothing more important, more valuable than time. Make sure you are spending your time wisely, because, after all, time is all we have.
So be kind, play outside, give generously to friends, family, and charity, appreciate art and nature, smile at children, express your love, count your blessings, and learn, learn, never stop learning,
As for me, I think I will spend more time with Benji on the porch, staring off into space, watching the rain, and thinking about time and other weighty matters.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11
I am linking up with My Random Musings for Anything Goes, Denyse Whelan Blogs for Life This Week, Esme Salon for Senior Salon, Bethere2day for Wordless Wednesday, and Random-osity for The Good, The Random, The Fun.