How much do we need to worry about time? | Collège universitaire dominicain

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How much do we need to worry about time?

vendredi, 27 Mars 2015

By Iva Apostolova


A lot of ink has been spilled over the centuries in an attempt to capture the nature of time and our relation to it. Even if you’ve never heard of St. Augustine, I guarantee you, you will recognize his, now iconic, response to what time is: “If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.”

We have created endless myths and poetic images depicting time as circular, linear, infinite, finite, a voracious man-eating beast, a never ending spinning wheel of fortune... Time is a relational concept, pronounced the great Leibniz. Time is absolute, retorted Newton. Time is the form of the inner sense and as such, informs our consciousness, chimed in Kant. And so it went until Einstein set the record ‘straight’ when he announced that we live in a fluid, four-dimensional space-time reality which is rather complicated to describe and manipulate.

And then there are the Sartres and the Heideggers of the 20th Century who rub our noses in what they call the inescapable truth: we, humans, are thrown, free will notwithstanding, into this thing called existence which is, before anything, existence-in-time. And yet we try to escape time. All the time, in fact. We live half of our lives as though we would live forever, and the other half -- frantically trying to hang on to our youth, or lamenting its loss.

The brilliantly insightful Nietzsche notably asked his readership if, when reflecting back on their lives, had they had the chance to relive them again, they would.

Bottom line: how much do we need to worry about time?

As the old a-la-Godfather joke goes, here’s what transpired between a dying Italian Mafia Don and his grandson. “Grandson, I wanta you to listen to me. I wanta you to take mya 45 automatic, so you will always remember me.” “But, grandpa, I really don’t like guns. How about you leaving me your Rolex instead?” “You lisina to me, some day you goin a be runna da business, you goina have a beautiful wife, lotsa money, a biga home and maybe a couple of bambino. Some day you goina come hom and maybe finda you wife in bed with another man. Whata gonna do then? Pointa to your watch and say, ‘Time’s up?’”

And there you have it, the bottomless wisdom of the Don!