Not long ago, I set my bedside clock incorrectly and later, by checking other clocks around the house discovered and rectified my mistake. I no longer go out to a job, so why do I have so many clocks? They just haven’t worn out. I no longer live my life strictly by the clock, but rather, more organically, personally, doing what feels right at a particular time. Sometimes I get up really early, other times I spend a lazy day.
Then, one day a couple of days on I was working at my computer, thinking about an appointment I had later. I noticed that my computer showed a time several hours past what I thought it was. Yikes! I would be late. How did that happen? Here in this part of the world during summer the sun shines long into the evening, so I couldn’t tell time by that. For a little while I was actually confused. My other clocks showed a much earlier time. Had there been a power outage? I checked my settings and my time display was set on auto, but the time zone was Brasilia!? I ended up having to set my time zone manually.
This all got me thinking about what a human construct time is. If we didn’t have clocks we’d be telling time by the sun or by our stomachs. Or maybe not even thinking of time at all.
Not all cultures think of time as linear, an entity that exists in the abstract.
Around the same time that I was battling with clocks, I had a few memory incidents where I suddenly found myself not only thinking of past events, but feeling them. Now this has happened to me before and probably happens to most people. Something triggers it and there we are in the past, reliving it. At times it’s easy to identify the trigger, a sight, a sound, a smell. Other times the brain throws up particular visions, pictures, or voices seemingly at random. And we are living in the past, present, and possibly future (making plans for winning the lottery) simultaneously.
Some people believe in cycles of time, repeating lives.
If a tree falls in the forest, does anybody hear? (Bruce Cockburn)
Does time and space really exist apart from the human mind?
Am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man, or a man dreaming that I am a butterfly? (Chuang Chou)
As writer and reader I live not only in dreams, but in books and stories of many kinds – my own as well as others. I reread books and think of some of the characters as old friends. And yet I still do believe in a kind of reality that I share in the here and now with other people at times, on my own at other moments.
What is the nature of reality? Does it exist in space and time?
Or perhaps we are travelling in our own personal TARDIS.