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by William H. Benson

March 29, 2001


     Time travel has always fascinated.  The ancient Egyptian pharaohs’ wanted to preserve their bodies to travel forward into that future world;  hence, the need for pyramids and mummification.

     In H. G. Wells’s 1895 novel The Time Machine, the traveler ventured forwards as well as backwards, but according to Isaac Asimov such travel is impossible.  It is a law of physics that we can only move forward in time but not necessarily at a fixed unalterable rate.

     In 1905 Albert Einstein advanced his Special Theory of Relativity.  He suggested that to  successfully measure distances what is crucial is the relative motion between the object being measured and the device doing the measuring.  Then, by his General Theory of Relativity he stated that motion through time becomes so closely related to motion through space that it is impossible to consider space and time separately.  This thinking reveals the notion that space-time is determined by four dimensions–height, length, width, and time.

     Stephen Hawking  wrote in his A Brief History of Time that “Space and time are now dynamic quantities: when a body moves, or a force acts, it affects the curvature of space and time–and in turn the structure of space-time affects the way in which bodies move and forces act. . . . Space and time affect everything that happens in the universe.”

     Isaac Asimov said, “Space is what makes possible differences in position,” and Albert Einstein said “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”

     It is within this parameter of space–time that life occurs.  For the thinker and philosopher time is life.  It is the crucial ingredient, for when it runs short, we grasp most desperately for it..

     Daylight savings time begins on Sunday, April Fool’s Day.  In a sense it is not time we are saving but only daylight, for time cannot be saved back into a depository institution to be withdrawn later for use.  It can only be either wasted or used constructively.

     The columnist Charley Reese wrote, “It’s said you can tell what people care about by what they buy, but I think a better indicator is how they spend their time.  Time is an unrecognized treasure.  Time, once spent, is forever gone.  Our store of time on Earth is limited.  We don’t know when it will run out, but we do know that it will.  The value of time is equivalent to life.”

     The child psychologists tell us that the amount of time a parent gives to a child equals that parent’s depth of affection for that child.  In other words for a child time is love.

     Not just on April 1st do fools waste their time on trifles.  The wise devote time to their families, to their jobs, to their careers, to their accomplishments, in other words, to constructing a quality life.  As usual, the ancient Greeks said it the best, “Life is a gift that comes to us from nature, but beautiful living is a gift that comes to us only from wisdom.”

     In a similar vein, Charles Darwin finished his Origin of the Species with this sentence.  “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

     So we can wisely use or foolishly waste Sunday’s extra hour of daylight, a small slice of time.