As sure as 7:30 comes to ruin every morning of my existence, time is a very real part of our world and universe. We may lead haphazard lives, but take a look at everything else around you; there is a universal clock that guides the stars, nature, and even the more advanced creatures who ponder the existence of time itself. If time were indeed relative, why would it repeat itself year after year and make predicting the seasons so simplistic that any five year-old can do it. Take a look around: time is everywhere, and to deny it is akin to returning to the dark days of mankind. Everything we know and do is essentially nothing without the concept of time.
How is it that Edmund Halley correctly predicted the return of the comet that would someday bear his name? Didn’t we know about Hale-Bopp years before it ever crossed our skies? Tune in to PBS any Saturday night, and astronomer Jack Horkheimer will tell you the positioning of the stars a month in advance. Trust me. It’s not magic! For our earliest ancestors, it may have been magic, but mankind has watched as the same events have happened for hundreds of thousands of years. And, yes, time marches on. Our scientists know all about every solar and lunar eclipse that will occur well into the future, and they even know which “doomsday” asteroids we need to watch. None of this can happen in a vacuum.
Think about the animals and their instincts. Years ago, somebody knew enough about time to write “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano.” It’s all a matter of observation. Animals don’t need a Timex in order to survive; they are tuned in to the celestial clock. Geese know to fly south in the winter, and the caribou migrate as the arctic rivers begin to freeze. We all knowing humans don’t credit these creatures as having the capability of higher thought. Indeed, none of them give a damn about Halley’s Comet, but why should they? Even the simplest creatures have a concept of time. Doesn’t the adult mayfly know that he has twenty-four hours to help perpetuate the species? He’d better act fast! It’s all a matter of time.
Would mankind have ever advanced past the hunter/gatherer stage without a working knowledge of time? It’s a pretty stupid creature that will not notice that the rivers dump their rich silt in the valleys during the spring floods. Following the floods comes the perfect “time” for planting, and the crops grow during the summer and are ripe for harvest in autumn. After the rains, it gets warm. What a concept! AND it happens every year! Even the earliest homo sapiens knew that everything repeats itself, and when they began to figure this out, knowing that the earth revolves around the sun in a set cycle wasn’t all that important. They were learning enough about time to grow their own food, and that was a start.
To assume that time is man’s invention is ridiculous! Maybe it makes more sense to say that modern man, himself, is an invention of time. It tells us when to work, and it tells us when to sleep. We have added artificial names and numbers (January 20, 2008) in order to aid in our understanding and measurement of time, but to deny or make light of it is foolish. My vacation ends January 22nd, and I will return to work, but I believe in time, and I know that it will march on and give me leisure sometime soon. Like everything else, that process repeats itself again and again as we move forward in our lives.