Time is pretty cool

27 Aug

I’ve had this thought about time for a while, being a history geek and all, but never put it down on paper. I think it’s interesting how we divide time up into hours, days, months, and years. There is this notion that a “day” is a set block of time between sunrise and sunset and that it somehow ends when you close your eyes to go to sleep. Sleeping seals that day off in the past, closing it forever. We do the same thing for every new year. At midnight on December 31st, the year is over, click, done. We start a new year and everything is reset.

The funny thing is that only we humans do this. The separation of time into neat little categories is completely artificial and exists only as part of our collective conscious, the same way the internet is the collective “conscious” of millions of computers. Here’s a quote I read years ago that really brought this home to me:

“Time has no divisions to mark its passage.. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.”
–Thomas Mann

In reality there is no clear delineation of time. Yes, days and nights come and go, but animals, plants, and rivers don’t know it’s a new year. It doesn’t matter to them, it’s all a continuum. What really blew my mind as a history major was the realization that there was nothing separating the past from the present. Yes, time has passed, but historical eras are not like distant countries; self contained within set boarders. Time doesn’t stop and reset between Rome and the dark ages, or the dark ages and the middle ages, or the middle ages and the renaissance, and all the way up to now. Those delineations are artificial markers created by us. Time doesn’t stop and reset when one day ends and another begins.

People come and go, clothes, buildings, languages, and art change, but there are no set boundaries. When you look up at the sun or the moon, they’re the same as when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, when the Egyptians built the pyramids, when the Romans were conquering Gaul, when crusaders were invading Jerusalem, when DaVinci was painting, when resistance fighters fought the Germans in France, and on and on through the never stopping continuum. I’m not sure if I’m making any sense. It’s hard to try and convey this idea that consists mainly of gut feelings.

One Response to “Time is pretty cool”

  1. Greg Christopher August 27, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

    I actually have a lot to say about this. Unfortunately, it is mostly going into the GM book for Synapse, so I am hesitant to share.

    If you are interested, e-mail me and we can talk privately with the assurance you will keep it to yourself.

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