In 1972 two seconds were added to time.
The seconds were added because it was a leap year and time was out of sync with the earth’s rotation.
Did those two seconds change the course of anyone’s life? Who knows? Someone might have stepped out into the road in front of a passing car a second earlier than they would have the day before?
Someone might have avoided colliding in the street with the as yet, unknown love of their life?
Or nothing at all might have happened.
My dad took in a female friend when she had terminal cancer. This was in the days of regular tv when streaming wasn’t even an idea, and when someone asked my dad how long his friend had left, my dad thought for a moment and said, ‘let’s say it’s probably not worth her starting a new series.’
Those extra two seconds of time didn’t make much difference to my dad’s friend.
What is time?
Time may be defined as a set of rules that govern the past, present and future. People use clocks to measure time; these tools help us organise our activities through time. Some people believe that time is absolute, an unwavering constant upon which all other things depend; others believe that time is relative.
I’ve mentioned before that I think time is like a two week holiday. Your first 40 years are like the first week of your holiday, and you seem to have all the time in the world, but then, halfway through the second week, you feel like time is running out?
Whilst there is a physical element to time, you can see that the way we think about time gives us our experience of it.
Every day of the first week is 24 hours long, the same amount of time as each day in the second week. But our experience of time during the first week is that the days are long and leisurely whereas every 24 hours of the second-week speed past.
So time is physical and relative.
You might know that time is my Achilles heel. I want to squeeze so many things into my day, and because I don’t often get around to half of them, it feels like there is never enough time.
Not enough time
In 2013 the Tikker Death Watch was launched. By inputting your details such as weight, height, how much you eat and drink, fitness, and a whole host of other information, the watch’s algorithm will predict how long you have left on earth down to days, minutes, and seconds.
Of course, this isn’t an accurate prediction. It can’t take illness or falling trees into account, and it can’t honestly tell you how long you have left.
The idea is to encourage you to better health habits and for entertainment.
I can’t think of anything worse. I’m already in the second week of my holiday; I don’t want to know how many seconds I have left. That would ramp up my feeling of not having enough time.
Time to do what?
But what do I need more time for? To finish a project? If I weren’t here, it wouldn’t matter to me if the project was completed or not, would it?
To spend time with family? In that case, why aren’t I doing that right now?
To make more money? It’s not even worth going there.
Imagine living forever. What a nightmare. Would you stay with the same partner for eternity? How many first dates could you stand to go on?
How many hobbies could you take up? How many articles would you want to write?
Knowing that life is finite helps us enjoy what we have and what we do. If our holiday lasted for months, how many days would you want to swim or sunbathe? How many sights would you want to see or markets to browse in?
It’s how you spend time and not how much of it there is.
Can you spend time? Or waste it?
As time doesn’t physically exist, you can’t pour it down the toilet, but you can lose hours doing things that take up your time, like scrolling through social media. This might feel like a waste of time but spending an hour talking to a friend on the phone doesn’t.
Which brings us back to the question of what is time? Is time real?
It’s something that has puzzled philosophers and scientists for centuries. Some believe that time is an objective, concrete phenomenon that can be measured and quantified. Others argue that time is merely a human construction, a way of measuring the movement and changes in the world around us.
There are many different theories about the nature of time. Some see it as a single dimension, with the past, present, and future all existing at once; others see time as existing in multiple dimensions, with each individual’s experience of time playing out across several parallel timelines. Still, others believe that time doesn’t exist but is created by our perceptions and expectations.
Everyone lives by time. You wear watches; schedules are planned out; appointments made; meetings scheduled. But what if there was no time? What if the concept of time is simply an illusion that has gotten into our heads?
Or, at least, that’s what best-selling author Eckhart Tolle suggests in his book, A New Earth. He says that our state of consciousness dictates our experience of time, not the other way around. There is only now.
Tolle says that if you were to ask animals in the forest what the time is, they would answer that it’s now because the concept of time, as we understand it, doesn’t exist for other species.
As Tolle says, ‘if your life is miserable right now, does it matter if you live another 20 years?’ The answer will always be ‘no’. So why not live each day to its fullest?
Living in the now is an odd concept. There is only this moment; you can’t be in the next moment or the past moment except in your head. In the privacy of your head, your time travel back in time and into an imagined future.
But, in reality, you can only be in this moment, right now.
And at this moment, does time exist at all?