Wednesday, July 11, 2007

it's about Time


That elusive dimension that makes life as we know it possible.

Theologans, philosophers, thinkers and sceintists have for thousands of years tried to unlock the secrets of time.

I recently heard a fascinating episode of radiolab devoted to Time. If you have a minute or 47 you can hear it here. This post is loosely based on my impressions while listening.

In my previous Subway poem I contrast the passage of time as seen from the eyes of 2 perspectives moving at different speeds, the passenger hurrying to work, and the musician spending the day there playing his music.
Time, as Einstein shows in his theory of relativity is not a fixed universal tempo as previously thought. It is rather an elastic concept that can be stretched or shortened based on the subjects perpective.
It’s fascinating to note how almost everything in this world has some sort of built in meter that sets its tempo. In living things it might be the beating heart, in stationary objects, the rate of erosion and in a music piece the tempo of the melody. We experience time based on this constant and it can thus be sped up or slowed down accordingly by temporarily entering another items time frame and tempo. For instance if you go to the beach, close your eyes and listen and let yourself be immersed in the sea, in the crashing waves, you tap into that new tempo and time slows accordingly.
In Torah Hashkafa we know that time only exists for us to function in. It’s one of the dimensions of our physical arena along with space. But each moment does exist, we just cannot understand in what fashion that may be because we can only grasp the physical world as we know it. So time is relative indeed. The Michtav MeiEliyahu writes that our Souls are revealed to us section by section to work on. Each section is a moment of time.
Imagine a moment stretched out to 10 or 20 times its legth to disect and analyze.
I was fascinated by this performance given in San Fransisco of Beethovens iconic 9th Symphony.
However, instead of it lasting the intended 60 minutes or so, it has been stretched to last 24 hours. So you’re listening to this familiar piece of music and you’re in an entirely different dimenion of time. I found it to be eerily beautiful and a small peek into this concept.
Here is the first 10 minutes of the piece..

(Here's the site..)

If you listened to the entire NPR clip you heard how time has evolved over the years. The way time was viewed just 200 years ago is very different to the way we view it today. This dramatic shift has had some interesting consequences and has raised some questions I’ve often wondered about.
The clock is a relatively new invention and the concept of everyone having the same time wasn't widespread until the railroad came rumbling through and the need for a standard timetable arose. Imagine yourself back on a farm in 1800. Time was measured by tasks. Dawn was time to wake up. There was time to feed the chickens, time to eat lunch and time to bring in the harvest. And when the sun went down it was time for bed. Some of the more interesting clocks mentioned are the spice clock (where every hour another spice is released and even in middle of the night you can taste what time it is), the bird clock (where different birds by nature chirp differently at different tmes of the day) and others. Time was inexorably linked to things happening. Today the clock ticks on a time based time regardless of tasks or function. The universal imaginary clock keeps marching on and on. Think about how much easier it is to be lazy today. You're not wasting time if time is something far removed from the sphere of action.

I sometimes wonder about our alloted time in this world.

Is it based on time?
When we spend a certain amount of time we expire?

Or is it task based?
When we accomplish a certain amount or conversely, when we miss a certain amount of opportunties we are taken away?

Is it a football game, where the game is over after 60 minutes?

Or is it a baseball game where the game doesn’t end until 54 or 51 outs are recorded with a decisive score, no matter how long or short it takes?

hmm keep thinking...


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Anonymous Allie said...

I love the football/baseball analogy.. Although I don't think you got it totally right ;)

I believe our time in this world is task based. On the flip side though, I think that if we don't accomplish what we were set here to do, after a certain amount of time it's too late.
Very intriguing..

July 12, 2007 12:56 AM  
Blogger The Dreamer said...

for a jew, life was always based around time, no matter which time period he lived in. prayers must be said at certain times of day, etc.
rabbi emanuel feldman has written several fascinating essays on the concept of time. you can find them in his book "the shul without a clock." it's one of my favorites... so well written..

i think our time on this world is based on both the task and the time. we have a certain amount of time to accomplish certain tasks... if we don't finish those tasks, we will be allotted more time at a later date... comng back again...

i think a similar concept exists in reference to mashiach. hashem will send mashiach either "bi'eetoh" or "b'achishenah." either when it's time, or when we've accomplished what golus was supposed to teach us...

July 12, 2007 2:16 AM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

Well what you're saying doesn't really contradict anything because by not doing what you're supposed to're actively failing and missing opportunities. Sort of like striking out..thus losing the game..

thats true..But time is also based around..
Look at a Jewish calendar..the day starts at dawn..the 12 hours day starts ticking when the sun cmes up z'man krias shma and z'man tefilla...and then the sun setting brings the day to a close..all based on actions..and tasks..

Yes..R'Yonasan Eybshutz says that about moshiach...

July 12, 2007 10:25 AM  
Blogger anonym00kie said...

that mind of yours is precious..

before i can "keep thinking" i need to start thinknig.. so be back soon with my comments - once ive clicked on all the links :)

July 12, 2007 6:31 PM  
Blogger the only way i know said...

Can't know what to add...
This was simply so deep and thoughtful and different
Wish I had a minute or 47 now..of - but i don't..
it's bed'time' for me

Thanks for this wonderful wonderful perspective

July 12, 2007 6:31 PM  
Blogger jewmaican20 said...

First of all, from what I recall - regarding your last observation/question - our time here on Earth (i.e. the physical plane of existence) is determined by task and time. Whichever comes first ( Either the completion of the task, or the expiration of the alloted time ). Ideally, it's supposed to be our completion of our Tafkid ( or tikkun ) that determines our stay here. This concept can be applied to Moshiach as well; either we make Tikkun and bring him through merit, or at the end of a certain period, he'll come. That's how I remember it being taught at our Motzei Shabbos hashkafic roundtable.
Of course, that can lead us to question why we give people blessings to live until 120...
Regarding music and tempo, it's funny that you mention that, because it so reflects on life: staccato beats for fearful moments; big bass drum beats that add dramatic effect; a 3/4 beat to give a little swing...
And speaking of music, this whole posts brings to mind my favorite Floyd song...
"Ticking away, the moments that make up the dog day/ fritter and waste, the hours in an off hand way..."
Oh, well...Thanks for the thought, Dave...

July 13, 2007 4:12 AM  
Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

That pic is really cool I enjoy looking at it, really neat post.

July 13, 2007 9:54 AM  
Blogger Scraps said...

The concept of time has always fascinated me--how it speeds up and slows down seemingly subjectively, how a period of time can feel like a heartbeat and an eternity at the same time, how I used to think that anyone who got to be as old as [the age I am now] had to know almost everything but now I know I don't. I love your analysis of time. Thank you for sharing it.

July 13, 2007 10:05 AM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

well get to it...I love hearing your comments..

well..its not going anywhere...
and thanks

July 13, 2007 4:26 PM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

Thanks..good comment..
I've heard that too about leaving the world when one of the 2 are accomplished..
That doesnt sit very well with me though..because why would an infant die? Theres no way a week old can accomplish anything..Unless its accomplisging something outside of we perceive as accomplishments..
I dont know..
But its definitely true regarding I said earlier..from R'Yonasan Eibeshutz...

Dont look for too can cause

I know..its fascinated me on so many well
My pleasure..
Thanks for stopping by...

July 13, 2007 4:37 PM  
Blogger The Dreamer said...

david - maybe that week-old was given a week's time to live... and i know of week old babies who have caused people's lives to change aroun...

July 13, 2007 4:57 PM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

I know..thats why i said it makes more sense according to the "we have a certain amount of time to live" as opposed to " a certain amount of things to accomplish"..
I dont call laying there..not doing anything an accomplishent..
The Grand Canyon has also inspired people..

July 13, 2007 5:15 PM  
Anonymous m00kie said...

i love that stretched out music, also reminded me of pink floyd :)

ill tell you ive been thinking about time a lot, and really, id rather nto worry about it being task or time dependent, because one of them is going way too fast and one of them is not gettin done fast enough so either way i'm in trouble :)
what amazes me though is how much the feel of time has changed in my own life. high school was 5 years and it seems like it lasted an eternity. college was over 5 years and it flew by.. i wotn even mention working or dating..
when youure traveling the way there always seems longer than the way back, i guess cuz the way there is all new, and theres so much to discover and anticipate and learn. but on the way back we know what there is - or worse, we think we know - so we space out, get lazy and time just seems to go much faster..
sooo.. whats my point? no point.. i just wish it could all be new to me so i could slow down time :)

July 16, 2007 9:10 PM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

great comment..
Ye I can relate..
As for why time speeds up as we get older..
I think I fugured it out..Its simple math..
To a 1 year year is 100% of his life as he knows it.
To a 3 yr old its 33.3%
To a 10 year old its 10%..
and so..the older you get the smaller the unit of a year gets..percentage wise..and hence it "feels shorter"

July 16, 2007 9:21 PM  

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