Written By: Arthur  Kramer

TIME Benjamin Franklin observed: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I would add: “the passage of time” to Benjamin’s observation. Time, however, unlike death and taxes, is an elusive, intangible concept that no two people experience in the same way. To the ancients the key to measuring time was the heavens. The two most important heavenly bodies were the Sun and the Moon which naturally gave rise to the concepts of the year and the month. The year was based on the Earth’s motion around the Sun and the month was based on the moon’s motion around the Earth. The days and the weeks were then quantified artificially and in ways we are uncertain about. Were the Earth and the Sun to not move, however, our ancestors would have had difficulty conceiving of, let alone measuring, the passage of time. The Renaissance gave birth to Galilei Galileo and Issac Newton, and time, space and motion all came under the control of physics and mathematics. Inherent in Newtonian physics was the concept of one time frame where simultaneous events occurred for all of us at the same time. Nothing shook up the scientific community more in the twentieth century than what evolved in the mind of a Swiss patent clerk and was unleashed in 1905. Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity spun a new dimension to time, inexorably linking it to the basic three dimensions of length, width and height. Time and distance and Newtonian physics now became associated with one’s frame of reference and there was no longer any absolute simultaneity. Though people struggled to quantify and measure time from the very beginning of civilization, the handle of time suddenly began to soar out of reach with the swipe of Einstein’s pen. Furthermore, Einsteinian physics demonstrated that two observers in different inertial frames of reference will measure time and distance so that they systematically disagree. However, each will be correct within their reference. It will not be a case of one being “right ” and the other “wrong”. Special relativity adds the dimension of time to that of space. It seems to transcend human experience in almost a surreal Dalian way. If one could travel in a spacecraft at 90% the speed of light away from the earth for one year of “earth time”, and then turn around and return, the following would be true. The measurement of time in the spacecraft would be less than one year compared to two years of time transpiring on the earth. Everybody on earth will have aged two years, while the space traveler will have aged less than one year. Time on the spacecraft would be “slowed down” to less than half of earth time. Lest the reader be skeptical, the special relativity effect of space-time variation has been experimentally confirmed by precise atomic Cesium clocks that are sensitive to nanosecond changes in time. Einstein dubbed time the fourth dimension. Time as a fourth dimension can be expressed mathematically and it does not require an Einstein to obtain a grasp of it. However, to rationally and emotionally comprehend it, is not so simple, and it was not for Einstein either. We can easily see, and feel, the basic three dimensions of length, width and height. Can we see the dimension of time through the movements of the heavens, or the change of the seasons? Can we feel the dimension of time in the changes in our body, or when we find ourselves desperately awaiting some significent event? The philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) said that time and space are principles of human perception, intuitive concepts mentally imposed on our being. This is somewhat in keeping with Newtonian physics where space and time are absolute. However, it can also mesh with Einsteinian physics where space and time are dependent on the observer’s frame of reference and differs from observer to observer based on their perceptions. In fact, these two physical worlds are not necessarily incongruous. Most of our mundane lives are bound to a single frame of reference and time does not vary within that realm. Our daily routine is heavily Newtonian. Everybody operates within the same time frame and simultaneous events are very real in this era of instant communication. Our daily routine begins and ends roughly at the same time. Our meetings and appointments with others clearly function within the same time scale. Space and time appear to be finite and within our grasp. However, when our world is not routine, our space-time perceptions waver and we just might find ourselves in an Einsteinian world. Consider the following. The essential element in our awareness of time is change. Time is inextricably linked to our perception of something different. If the heavens and the Earth stood still, time would be locked in that embrace. We are all dealt an internal clock, good on the average, for 75 Newtonian years or so. However, is it relentless in its beats or can we impose relativistic restraints on its escape mechanism? For a giant tortoise, whose life span is 177 years, or more than twice our life span, perceived change proceeds at perhaps half our rate. On the other hand, for a blue jay, whose life span is 4 years, perceived change moves at maybe 20 times our rate. When perceived change moves at a faster rate, more time appears to elapse. Physical time moves inexorably but change is not immutable and at times it is within our grasp. The passages in one’s life are analogous to the epochs that scholars have carved out of history. We all have our “Age of Enlightment”, our not so welcome “Middle Age”, our “Good Old Days” and our least welcome “Twilight Years”. Consider, for example, those formative years which is perhaps your Age of Enlightment. They loom as one of the “longest” periods in your life. Change is rampant. Summers feel endless. Years seem to last forever. Time appears to dilate in an Einsteinian way. Is it out of our control or do we have the means to recapture this time expansion at other phases in our life? Years ago, my wife and I left the States for a two year sojourn on our sailboat bound for the Mediterranean and returning the following year to the Caribbean and then back to the States. Those days were like nothing else in our lives. No two were alike, no moments the same. We cut our Newtonian cords and floated on an Einsteinian sea. If this sounds too romantic it’s not possible. We were constantly in touch with our essential world and were an integral part of every change that occurred. We were as alive as it is possible to be every second. Were we traveling in a spaceship close to the speed of light? Absolutely not, but maybe our overloaded senses moving stimuli through our bodies at the speed of light helped propel us into relativistic space-time. Einstein tells us there are no simple answers. It is, however, possible for any of us to expand our time horizon by escaping from our routine and searching for events that engulf and enrich our lives with change. Some people seek a natural world where many of those chores that beckon them day to day do not exist and every moment is different. You need a unique environment where those daily interests that drive you are out of reach, where you are focussed on all that surrounds you, and all that is inside of you. A world where no one tells you when to stop, or when to leave. A world where you use all your senses and determine, as much as possible, your own destiny. Needless to say, to find this world you must carpe diem and escape, and in this way you might lift off from a Newtonian time frame and drift up into an Einsteinian one. Break the routine, bring change into your life and your time may no longer be at the mercy of heavenly movement.