‘Time’? That’s that concept with a clock, right?

Time, we never have enough of it. Or so it seems. The concept with the clock, the clock that you build your day around. But what is ‘time’, and mostly: is it the same for all of us?

I read this really interesting book not too long ago, the title would translate to: Who (doesn’t) travel is crazy, where the author discussed the notion of time. About how Western societies see time as a solid thing, something you’re bound to live by, where other cultures see time as a fluid factor in the world. I had some first hand experience with this while I lived in South Africa. I quickly learned that if a South African said he/she was going to do something now, that did not necessarily mean that it was getting done now.

It took me three months to learn the difference, and another two to get used to it. In Southern Africa, you have two definitions of now. You have now-now, and just-now. The first one is what (western) Europeans know as ‘now’, the other one is between now and… somewhere in the near or not so near future. It’s utterly frustrating to (northern) Europeans who are used to a 9 to 5 mentality, as well as punctuality. But even our concept of time is shifting lately, shifting to a 24-hour-economy where everything is planned by the second on every moment of the day. Time has become an enemy, whether because there is always too little or too much of it.

I always thought I would write a totally different blog here. I would dive into the ancient concept of time, search for psychological analyses on the perception of time, and possibly end with some helpful tips on how you can make the most of your day and all the time you have. However, I ran into a problem really quickly: I don’t have enough time to do this properly! The blog about time has been postponed several times, more than I care to admit, and eventually I thought about giving up on it completely. Because African time doesn’t apply to Europe, doesn’t apply to a person who has a fulltime job and tradeshows from time to time. Doesn’t apply to people who want to have a personal and social life in the weekend. Those people don’t have time to do proper research and write.

And now I’m looking at this blog, again, pondering about this concept of time. I am utterly sure that time used to be different when I was younger. Summers lasted forever, which was good because you didn’t want the holiday to end, and 10 minutes more to play outside was just enough. Now, 10 minutes is nothing and holidays are over before you got the time to relax.
No matter how you turn it, there are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a week, so many weeks in a month and so on. However, there is a difference in attitude when you see time as a binding and linear ‘contract’, or if it is more of a flexible ‘concept’. In Western societies we see time as an unchangeable concept, which might be a reason for our 9 to 5 work mentality, however when I was in Africa I realised that is not how all cultures experience the concept of time. It got me thinking… Is there a way back to those endless summers and those hour-long 10 minutes?

Time is an odd little thing. It always goes on, always goes forward. Or does it? With science advancing more and more, it seems that even time is no longer a concept set in stone. Because how can we consider time inevitable when we can reverse it and bring back animals who have been lost for hundreds or even thousands of years? In theory, these things are already possible this very moment. Through the process of de-extinction, scientists are looking to the possibilities of bringing back extinct species. However, relatively similar techniques can be used to clone humans as well as clone organs. Resulting in “spare parts” with which humans could try to “fix themselves”, stretching out their lifespan with it. In another example of time not being inevitable, there is the theory that time moves backwards or at least differently in black holes. Of course you can’t use them to actually move back in time, but it seems that in the dark matter of space there are spots where light, matter, and time move according to different rules than the ones that apply to earth. Unfortunately, it is still mostly guessing what really goes on in the ‘holes’: with even light not being able to escape from the cosmic phenomenon, research on it has proved to be rather tricky.

When it comes to time, I think I can reach the conclusion that I spend a whole lot of researching it. Do I understand it? Not at all. It is a concept with a clock, which is round and keeps on ticking (at least until the batteries run out). And it is a concept that everyone sees differently. I might not get the endless summers back, but I can make them so memorable that they will never fade from my memory and therefore stay with me for all time. There is that. And now, considering my alarm is going in a couple of hours, it is time to stop all this research and just see what happens tomorrow when the sun rises again.

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