Time is a funny thing.
According to the 1922 scifi novel, The Girl in the Golden Atom, by Ray Cummings, “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.” It was quoted rather well in an early 90’s movie starring Jeff Daniels called, The Grand Tour, and later renamed a couple of times (heh…I said “times”) to Timescape and Disaster in Time. In both cases, the protagonists offer the idea that time is the consistent measure that allows events to unfold in chronological order.
But time is a truly odd phenomenon.
In many ways, it’s measured and consistent. Our computers and cell phones are all synced together by some great atomic clock in the sky (or buried in the same mountain where the WOPR computer learned from Matthew Broderick that no one wins at tic-tac-toe). Astronauts use it to calculate precise OMS burns to the milisecond while financial planners utilize much larger units for their monetary gains. From watches to daily organizers and yearly calendars, time is an ever-present entity that ticks away the seconds, minutes, hours of our lives.
But, time is not a constant. It evolves and moves. It speeds up and slows down. It dulls the senses and fades memories.
“Time heals all wounds.” Geoffrey Chaucer is said to have coined this term in Troilus and Criseyde.
“Time is the longest distance between two places.” Tennessee Williams in The Glass Menagerie.
“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” Henry van Dyke
“Time is an illusion.” Albert Einstein.
The best explanation I have for why time seems to speed up as we get older has to do with perception. When a five year old is told that Christmas is just a year away, for him, that’s waiting 1/5th of his life. Tell a 50 year old the same thing and it’s only 1/50th. The unit of time is the same, but the proportion has changed.
Abbott and Costello used this to comic effect in a discussion over the ages of two people who want to marry. If the man is 40 years old and the woman is 10, he is four times older than she. So, they wait five years. Now he is 45 and she is 15, making him three times older. They wait 15 more years and now he is 60 and she is 30, making him only twice as old. That’s when Costello jumps in and yells, “He better marry her quick before she passes him up!”
Why am I writing about this?
2013 is about to fade over the horizon the like setting sun and a brand new year will emerge on the other side. Father Time is about to take his exit (stage left, even) and make room for baby New Year. With that in mind, all of the contributors at Freedom Cocktail were asked to write an end-of-year post with no real limitations on subject, save that it must relate to the end of one year and the start of another. The options could have run the gamut from the best and worst of 2013, to family traditions, to hopes for the future or problems that continue to haunt us from the past. (I would suggest reading all of the other posts to see what everyone else chose for their topics.)
For my part, I wanted to address the concept of time. It is a precious commodity we all possess and often squander. Whether it’s with our kids, our spouses, friends, family or on individual pursuits, we all say we wish we had more time to give and then proceed to come up with thousands of excuses why we don’t have it to spare. We are particularly reminded of this every New Year’s when we (though not all) succumb to the self-imposed pressure to conjure up a quick list of resolutions we hope to enact and within a few weeks, if not months of the New Year, the list is all but discarded as the monotony of our daily routine takes over.
Looking back at 2013, perhaps we can all endeavor to try something other than, or at least in addition to, the typical list of weight-loss-exercise-eat-better-and-spend-more-quality-time-with-others that make up the bulk of resolutions. Let us endeavor to remember. And, if so moved, to act!
In the past year, we have been witness to one scandal after another in Washington. We have been lied to and had our hard-earned money taken from us. Our elected leaders play the same game of telling constituents what they want to hear while following the advice of consultants whose sole objective it is to ensure their reelection. With rare exception, new programs and initiatives end with taxpayer dollars lost, taken, overspent or under utilized and the solution to this maddening cycle of malfeasance is to ask for more. And get it! Consequences for such fraud, waste and abuse seem reserved for those only in the private sector. The prize for epic failure in government is, more often than not, a promotion to another part of our bloated bureaucracy with access to brand new coffers of largess to play with and abuse.
The 2014 mid-term elections are a chance to remind ourselves of the actions, not the words, of our elected leaders. We have more access to information than ever in the history of mankind. With a few stokes on a keyboard, we are whisked away to voting records and video clips, newspaper reports and social media rants, histories of promises made and results achieved. Yet, more and more Americans choose to vote for the “hip” candidate or the “funny” one or the politician that shows up to play a saxophone on a late-night comedy show. We let humorists and satirists twist our perceptions and invent new realities because we are too lazy to do our own research. The 20-word caption cartooned over an image of Gene Wilder’s depiction of Willy Wonka become the canon of truth while the facts lay dormant under a coating of undisturbed dust.
Politicians know time dulls all memories and the longer the distance from the actual event, the further away it feels. It is a tactic used excessively well by our current body elect. And, when the scandals happen faster than anyone has time to deal with them, they eventually get lost in ever-widening tangle of information, lies and obfuscation. How many realize there has been no resolution to the Fast and Furious scandal? It seems like it happened so long ago. What about action taken to protect our privacy from unwarranted seizure by the NSA? Nothing so far. It’s been so long that surely the IRS heads that colluded with the FEC have been fired, charged, tried and jailed? Nope. And, of course, the ones who told us that our healthcare would not only be better but also cheaper have been duly reprimanded and shamed out of office, right? The answer for now is, not yet.
The way to resolve these issues is to not allow time get the better of us. While we should all try to find more time for our friends, family and pursuits of happiness, this New Year, let us all make one additional resolution that should have never fallen off our lists to begin with. Let us resolve to hold our elected leaders accountable for their actions. Let us resolve to stay informed and see through the games played to muddy the waters while they dazzle us with smoke and mirrors. Let us resolve to never take our duty and our right to vote for granted ever again.
Instead of allowing time to get the better of us in 2014, let us take the time to send a clear message to those who have insulated themselves inside the beltway. It’s time they knew, it is their time, which has run its course.