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Time Will Tell

......and we dwell in It

I get it muddled, every year: do the clocks go forward, or back, in October. That extra hour in bed can be quite important, sometimes. I thought I’d got it ‘right’, when I discovered the ‘Spring Forward, Fall Back” mnemonic but, as I go dyslexic every so often, I can still get mixed up.

I think about Time, quite a lot, and how we register it; and what disturbs me is watching the way a digital clock so remorselessly moves through it, with no ‘tick- tock,’ but a seamless passing of my personal existence, caught in its transit. I much prefer chimes and pendulums.

Sir Oliver Lodge, one of those indefatigable Victorian scientists (who also delved into metaphysical things) observed in one of his tomes “Man and The Universe” that anyone who’d reached a lifespan of eighty three years and four months, had lived for only a thousand months. That’s eighty four calendars, almost full. The question is “What do most folk fill them with?”   This is the kind of pondering that keeps me sitting on my toadstool!

I’m talking ‘caterpillars” and  ‘white rabbits,’ ‘Father William” kind of things that stretch back all the way to Time Immemorial, long before Julius Caesar, and Pope Gregory because ‘when you think a  thing, the thing you think is not the thing you think you think but the thing you think you think you think.” And I do think it’s about time more of us started to think more deeply about what we do with our precious seconds. It’s so easy to get caught up in other folk’s timetables, agendas that run on tracks we never planned to be travelling on.

There are two images from the world of cinema that informed me: the first is a sundial, in the opening scenes of “Gone With the Wind,” in Tara (the home of Scarlett O’Hara) and its inscription: “Do Not Waste Time: It Is The Stuff of Life.” In “A Matter of Life and Death,” a Heavenly Court is debating whether a young pilot’s time has come, there’s an inspired sequence where only those passing a judgement are allowed to pass through the dimensions. These images gave me my first understanding of Eternity being ‘of the essence;’ and corporeal time, a ‘dilution.’

We play around with it, as though it was a game of Cat’s Cradle; but the game can have only so many moves, and Calendars are the boards. The Julian Calendar, reputedly, came out of Julius Caesar’s liason with Cleopatra-an equal, in every way. Casting a light on his martial exploits, his amours is one thing; but he was a complex man, ambiguous in his allegiances. He courted the Druids, to become an honoured member, before he exploited their secrets. He harked back to earlier knowledge, which he sought when he approached Sosigenes, for advice on the creation of a new solar calendar.

Little is know about him, except he came from the Island of Samos , home of the legendary Pythagoras: likewise, Aristarchus- each of them way ahead of their time and, still, not fully understood, They built their knowledge on what was already known, stretching back to Neanderthal Times; and they were no slouches in matters of navigation; nor in estimating Time, without clocks. This new calendar was the beginning of a sweeping sideswipe of ancient cultures, having little connection with the swiftly changing religious (and politically motivated) power games of prelates and emperors in a newly emerging Western World: and it was to make irrevocable divisions. It was, basically, messing around with the mind sets of the populace: all very Khmer Rouge, really.

Julius’s Year of Confusion was a case in point when-in an effort to get the accountancy of it right-October 13th, 47 BC began a trawl of four hundred and forty five days.Prior to this, Priests had set up a really clever wheeze, by exploiting calendars for their own ends, and putting in  the odd day her (and the odd month there) to keep  their favoured politicians in office. Sometimes it was from ignorance, occasionally from stupidity; more often by chicanery. Even Julius was to tire of that.

The Counting of Days had been got wrong, initially so, from AD 45 to CE 12, the leap years had been registered every three years (rather than four) except for an adjustment between 9BC and CE 8-ish, which made up for a surplus for requirements. The Emperor Augustus was rewarded for this calendrical tweak.Then Pope Gregory had got involved, reacting to the accumulation of so many discrepancies (the Julian year being eleven minutes and fourteen second longer than the Solar Year. Putting the cat among the pigeons, he’d summarily removed ten days. Naturally,, the populace got rather annoyed about that, feeling that their lives were being shortened.

When the Gregorian Calendar was adopted, in Britain, in 1752, a removal of eleven days was deemed necessary; the day after September 2nd, becoming September 14th. To say the populace whined, would be an understatement: the populace seethed. Just think, 1752: The Age of Enlightenment, and a critical examination of previously accepted doctrines; the theory that we should exercise Reason, than accepting imposed ‘authorities,’ and ‘spiritual revelations.’ 

I think, quite a lot, about how the Past, Present and (no doubt) the Future keeps to trysts on designated days; just so we will remember: even though so much more has been forgotten.Hatches: Matches: Despatches: Treaties: Armistices. Anniversaries , of all kinds, in just one lifetime take some keeping up with: never mind the adjustmenst and fabrications. Perhaps. most of Us should be taking ( and appreciating) just one day at a time, from the rising of the Sun and the coming in of the Moon? And, perhaps, we’ve gone too far in universal matters that defy control, by making artificial grammars for something that has no boundaries? 

The Evenks, a Tribe of Nomads, once living in the deep forests of Siberia,marked each hour from a particular viewing point. They told the time by using features (seen on the horizon) as a Clock; and measuring the length and direction of shadows to divide the days into several hours. I’m thinking this wouldn’t work, if they’d lived on a crowded housing estate because -like a language, and a culture, indigenous time-keeping systems are based on what they see. I’m thinking we take too little account of our own body rhythms, with not much to do with GMT.

War Time/Peace Time:it makes a difference but whether it’s for the good of All, is a mute point.The Twentieth Century, alone, saw a hundred Acts of Parliament, dealing with the changing of Clocks. Some might call that ‘Tampering.’

Thomas Mann put it well: “Time has no divisions to mark its passing. There is never a thunderstorm to announce the beginning of a new month, or year.” We can do that, well enough, from our Memories: that’s a stream we can all go fishing in, when man is the measure of all things. 

From our own perspective of course but, as Lewis Carroll said: “It’s a poor sort of memory that can only go backwards.”

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