Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

August 26, 2017

The rock group Chicago asked the title question in a song on their second album in 1970. Their answer was simply "does anybody really care?" But today I'm thinking about time, and I care, as I have A LOT of it.

 

With respect to time, Augustine found its description elusive when he wrote "If no one asks me, I know; if I wish to explain to whoever asks, I know not." He thought only the present existed. On the other hand Albert Einstein, whose theories proved that time is relative and could be altered by external factors like speed and gravity, said "For us believing physicists, the divide between past, present and future has only the significance of an illusion, albeit a stubborn one." Augustine might not have been satisfied with that. So, is time crucial, continuous, consistent? Is our perception of it impacted by our age or by outside influences?

 

Another inmate here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp recently asked my age. Without thinking, I replied that I was 62. Minutes later I realized that's not my current age; it was my age when I arrived here. Today marks the first day of my third year of existence here. Does mere existence count toward age? I learned early on that it would be difficult for me to thrive here. There are simply too many competing forces to make thriving all but impossible. Certainly, that's part of the purpose of our criminal justice system. However, it is possible, if not probable, that I will survive. So how do I make survival more probable while maximizing existence? 

 

One method I've tried to use to master this challenge is to measure time weekly. Daily analysis is too often for me, even though I keep a daily journal, and monthly far too long. Every Monday, I evaluate life, love, fear, etc., measuring against the prior Monday. Another method is to try to live in the present moment. That's not always easy when my past is such a disaster and the future is uncertain, but I'm convinced this is imperative. If I am to squeeze everything possible from every week, it has to happen one moment at a time. 

 

Maybe time can best be described as a beautiful beach on the Pacific Ocean. The past is the water moving in and out with each wave, and the sand is the future. The present is the shoreline, where the water meets the sand, ever moving, elusive, quite real at the moment...then gone. I'm not sure who said this, probably someone cool, but if I want to understand my present situation, I have only to look at my past. That same cool person also said that how I deal with the present is the best predictor of my future. That's not a bad mixture of reality and hope.

 

I do know that time will never be quite the same for me, and that's probably good. When my existence here is over and I walk out of this place, I plan to do less out of obligation and more with people I love. I definitely intend to spoil at least one grandchild and one dog.

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones