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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Words and Meaning III

The analogy to time. Not long ago the world took exactly 24 hours to spin on its axis. The time it took to spin was always exactly, to the millisecond, 24 hours, not because the amount of time it took the world to spin was precisely equal every day (it has never been) because the day was defined by the spin and divided into 24 equal units of one hour. Variations were too minute for the technology of the day to perceive. The world spun on and on. Technology climbed steady up the hill of precision. A day came--we could name it, but I don't know its name--when the technology of the ruler exceeded the standard. There was a great divorce. Time became the standard by which the rotation of the earth was measured: the rotation no longer measured time. Slave became master then. The clock on which the ants live measured too erratically to be of use. Time measures only itself. It is without object or referrent--unless, at a moment, for a reason, someone chooses, temporarily, to give it one.

Words effected the same divorce, and at approximately the same time.

3 comments:

  1. This is a very astute observation and an excellent way of putting it. It is a fundamental travesty that most things to a human are best regulated in some fashion or other. We seek to understand our world by what we can make of it, not necessarily by what it is. Some things are too broad for our understanding and so we must needs repackage it and cram it into its allotment. Never mind that a rotation is never 24 hours; this is most likely a fluke (as is for the 'evolutionary' reason for such unnecessarys as an appendix, tonsil, or gall bladder). The dictionary is always better than the word, a formula than the event or cause, a theory than the truth, and a method more than a way. The measurement of time is very interesting, if we can learn to come back to its actual measurement. Instead, we come back not to the measurement, which we have sloughed off; no, we come back to something far more glittering and attractive than that, something more tantalizing in a symmetry that we can comprehend, a sense that we have given life--we come back to time. If we found this fact in a different subject, I would be forced to state, that there would come a time, when we would be shocked to realize that milk first was made raw, then pasteurized.

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  2. But then of course we would have a hard time showing up to meetings "on time." The pragmatics of time make it extraordinarily problematic to continually have to add something as small as a "leap second" to the year to reconcile the clocks to the inferior time piece of the universe, and the prevalent theories of history consider the control of time as evidence of a cultural advance (when it is really only a technolgical advance, culturally neutral or negative, depening on the specific impact under consideration) over those cultures that don't wouldn't know what to do with a watch.

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  3. And too, if memory serves, there was a time when several calendars were simultaneously adhered to in this world. If it hadn't already been so, I would say that it would be nearly impossible or downright theoretical that a 'day' might be experienced in this kind of multiplicity. They went with the seasons more, one starting on April 1st, which gives us then our April Fools Day, when the calendar had changed but the peoples' expectation had not. If time can be measured according to different forms (different forms based on different observances or possibly motive), then time is something out of this realm altogether and this is merely the way in which we keep it on a leash (oh horrible incongruity). Time itself is not something that is constant everywhere in the universe. It changes most notably around the gravitational forces of a black hole (as far as we know) where another, seemingly 'physical' force takes over one that is thought to be more abstract (in that it is less readily tangible). Time has a master and it is not us. Time, in this sense becomes indescribable. Perhaps it is something as incomprehensible as life (for how do we measure that?). We say that it is priceless, but time is called to measure it and such a judgment, as a reference to the rest, becomes etched in the headstones as a type of code by which to understand them better. We know them by their years; for the years mean eras, and eras have struggled to encapsulate thought and wrestle it into submission. We talk of the fibers of time, with folds and twists; time is not something ironed out as we like to think. Time for the sorrowful is slow as well as the impatient. Time for the happy is fast, or for the contented. Winter drags in time and Summer strides forward. This too, is an aspect of time.

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