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Human Construction of Time

Who created time? Who decided that time was a necessary function of human society? The first device created to measure time was invented in ancient Egypt in 1500 BC (thanks, wiki). But what about before that? Were people aware of time as a concept?

Time is nonetheless, extremely convenient for our world today. Without it, we wouldn’t know when to show up to work, when to meet our date, or when our favorite TV series starts. Yet when you ponder on the concept of time, it becomes hard to describe. Evidence proving the past existed is created through memories, photographs or artifacts. While the future remains non-existent at all. Imagine explaining how the past and future work to someone who has never heard of time. We could say that the past is events that have occurred before this moment, whilst the future consists of events happening after this moment. But what do both these explanations have in common? They use the present as a pinpoint to define the past and future.

So in essence, the only ‘time’ that exists is now. Five minutes ago it was now, now is now, and five minutes later it will still be now. It becomes sort of mind boggling to think about, hey? But the more you sit on this concept, the more it will make sense.

Birthdays, for example, wig me out – if two people are born at the same time universally, but are in different time zones, technically wouldn’t they be the same age?

The irony is that humans are the only animals who measure time, which can result in anxiety or other mental distress, by focusing solely on the past and future. The following is an excerpt of one my favorite quotes, which really made me think about this idea:

“…All around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.” ― Mitch Albom, The Time Keeper

We continually hear that we should ‘live in the present moment’ which seems like an easy task, but proves to be rather difficult in practice. A lot of new age books such as ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle advise us that the key to happiness is accepting the present moment. However only when you wholeheartedly understand that time is a concept, rather than a reality, can we actually apply these principles to our lives.

Whilst time remains an essential component of our daily routine, it can also be a great burden. Our lives are focused on time and dates– from the day we were born; to the day we graduate, to the future date when we marry our partner. We often identify our happiness with a set event in the future, whilst forgetting it’s important to enjoy the moment right now.

What would you do if time keeping didn’t exist?


Words by Chiara Christian // Photography by Ava Williams.

© 2017 Reef Magazine

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