It's About Time

Written by Judy Mensch

 Lately I have been thinking about the measurement of time.  Maybe because my time is nearing it’s end (I’m not dying anytime soon, but I’m closer to that date than I was before).  That was such a non-descript parenthetical statement.  We’re all closer to that date than we were before.  What I meant was that I am probably in the final quarter of my life – and if not the final quarter, and I should live so long, at least the third quarter.

There have been adages and proverbs written about time.  “Time flies”, “Time heals all wounds”, “A stitch in time saves nine”, “Time is what keeps everything from happening all at once” to name a few.

Time has been written about, thought about, philosophized, talked about, cried over and studied.  Time has been scientifically diagnosed for ages and I’m still not able to travel into the past to change the course of history.  But I do enjoy all the time travel books and films and discussing with my friends how it is impossible to change the past because of the time space continuum.  I fantasize about it never the less.  Imagine if we could?

 zI did not grow up in the digital era of telling time.  I learned, as a child, on a clock with hands.  Of course I was an adult when I realized the second hand on a clock or watch was not the 2nd hand but actually showed the seconds passing.  I always thought it was the 3rd hand not the 2nd.  But that’s another story.  I think I’m glad I did not grow up learning to tell time on a digital clock.  I recently met some folks who did and they actually had a difficult time with the round clock on my wall with hands (no second hand).

I now live in a country where telling time is distinctly different from the way it’s told in the U.S.A.  Ten-thirty (10:30) is half eleven and 10:35 is five minutes over half eleven.  When someone casually asks me what time it is, I tense up, knowing that it will take me about five minutes to figure out how to say it.  And by the time I do, it’s five minutes later so what’s the point?  Get a watch.

In England, ten-thirty is half ten.  England is just a hop, skip and a jump from Holland (where I live now) and not only is there an hour difference in time zones but there is an hour difference in the mistake you can make when telling time.  Half ten here is 9:30 and half ten there is 10:30.  I recently saw a sit-com where an American fellow (not too bright) asked a British fellow what time they were meeting that night.  The British fellow answered, “Half ten.”   After a short pause, the American fellow said, “So you mean we’re meeting at five?”  Makes sense to me.  After all, five is half of ten.  And I’m no math genius.

I also always wondered about Daylight Savings Time.  I can’t figure out why we do that and why some countries (and some States in the U.S.A.) don’t.  And wouldn’t that mess up everything in the time space continuum?  OK, maybe not.  But Daylight Savings Time only began during WWI.  And it started in Germany.  Crazy little Germany.  It caught on in the rest of the world, and poof!  DST began.  But not everywhere.  I just read about an office building in Minnesota, in 1963, where different floors of the building had different time zones (as some participated in DST and some not) because there were offices belonging to various counties.  Yikes.  OK, that’s extreme, but I still don’t understand the advantage of Daylight Savings Time.

I also don’t understand why the 19th century means the 1800’s.  Wouldn’t it be less confusing if the 19th century were about the 1900’s?  Living in the 21st century makes me feel like I should commute to work via jetpack and my vacations spent on Jupiter.  This should be called the 20th century.  If not, it’s like saying I’m 63 when I’m really 62.  If a person just finishes their 62nd year of life, then they’re 62!  That’s how it works people.  Welcome to the 20th century.

The Bible also has some things to say about time.  There’s a beautiful passage in Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) that Pete Seeger wrote and turned into a song when I was a young (sung by the Byrds).  I know that those of you who are close to my age are singing it right now.  Turn, Turn, Turn.  The song is almost an exact adaptation of the Scripture.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

In the New Testament, Paul also writes to the believers at Ephesus and told them to “Redeem the time because the days are evil.”  (Ephesians 5:16).  I actually always thought that was a little funny – redeem the time.  Redeem means to buy back and you just can’t redeem the time.  When it’s gone, it’s gone. But in a more modern translation it reads that we should “make the most of our time” or “make the most of every opportunity.”  Definitely a more reasonable request.  Don’t we all wish we could buy back time?  C’est la vie.  Or should I say, tel est la temps.  As if I speak French.

So all this to say: time is a precious commodity while we are on this earth.  It’s more important than money, career, material or otherwise gain.  That’s because you cannot buy it back or recoup it.  So make the most of your time, doing things that matter, doing things that help people and make them and their circumstances better.