Time may have been on the side of The Rolling Stones once upon a time, until they realized that “time waits for no one,” and now they are more wrinkled than 12-year-old Shar Peis. Time is a human construct in our ongoing death match with mortality. Art, science and religion can all agree on this one thing: individual life has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Religion, however, ups the ante, claiming that meeting our Maker is only the beginning. They not only want to have their proverbial cake, but they want to eat it for eternity. Science considers the mutable minutiae of everything everywhere, and art wants nothing more than to express our collective awe at the implausibility of Being.

The sun never sets on the Earth’s race against Time, measuring its age geologically, appearing trapped in a state of inertia marked by eons, ages, epochs, and eras. It has seasons (turn, turn, turn), a longitude, and a latitude. It spins and shifts and pirouettes, a mere speck on the Universe’s cosmic dance floor.

The Webb Telescope peers into our past and sees celestial specters, like Schrodinger’s stars. We are enthralled with telling time, from sundials to atomic clocks, from wristwatches with faces and hands, to digital clocks with sharp lines of exactness. We ask, Do you have the time? What time should I be there? When does the party end? “Whenever” can produce shrieks of angst from those demanding a definite time; they’re probably Capricorns with OCD.

They want a set schedule, not Dali’s melting clocks, and school is wired to prepare us for a world based on Time’s illusory necessity. Chiming bells condition us to move from place to place. Lunch neither comes soon enough nor lasts long enough. Children have strict bedtimes they frequently disregard since their lizard brains abide an innate prehistoric clock. And then they are forced out of a slumber that felt lasted minutes, for fear they’ll be late. Whoever invented alarm clocks should burn in hell, one tick of the second hand at a time.

Your plane’s departure time can be delayed because Time doesn’t always fly. You arrive at the doctor’s 15 minutes early only to wait before the doctor finally sees you an hour later; duh, that’s why they call it a waiting room. Pregnant women are given a due date but don’t exactly know when the child will be born. “The waiting is the hardest part.” And there’s no timetable leading to our deaths; all we know for sure is that it will happen someday. Quite the impetus for getting up off your duff.

Movie theaters adhere to a schedule. Television programming is to the second. Auto mechanics and roofers will get to you when they get to you because they’re pressed for time. Amazon can deliver orders to your door overnight. A football game is four 15-minute quarters, with a 15-minute half time, but usually lasts longer than three hours. Baseball used to be America’s favorite pastime. Runners want to beat their best time. You need a starting time to play golf. There is no time like the present, to live in the moment, take a break, enjoy some downtime.


We like making good time on the road, eating at fast-food restaurants, and taking power naps. Jim Croce lamented that “there never seems to be enough time to do things you want to do once you find them.” We fool ourselves into believing we can make time, save time, do time, and be there if we can spare the time. The Stock Market opens and closes with precision because Time is money. Bars have a happy hour and a last call when it’s closing time.

The language of time is warped. When someone asks to be given a second, they really mean a minute. You can kill time and that time you’ve killed heals all wounds. And when you finally have enough time, you may end up having too much of it on your hands, endlessly hearing “Time’s wingèd chariot.”

The word month is derived from moon, of which there is a full one each month. We have fortnights and decades and centuries and millennia. Time is our greatest commodity and, yet we too often waste what’s always running out (like sand in an hourglass). The first month of the year is aptly named for the two-faced Janus, the Roman god of transitions and beginnings, simultaneously looking backward and forward.

May your auld lang syne be seen with clarity and fondness and the future with hope and resolve and may all your endings be happily ever afters.

(Editor’s note: We ran out of time to talk about infinity. It would have taken forever, and we had a deadline to meet. Maybe next time.)

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