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When Are You?

By Allan Eastman

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A Collision With Time

Highway at night, light trails

Split seconds can seem like minutes when one experiences what feels like an elongation of apparent time.

©iStockphoto.com/Alfsky

My own fascination with the nature of Time began when I was 19 years old. One freezing Canadian winter’s afternoon, I was driving the small family car on the way to pick up my Mother from work. Four blocks from home, I drove across an intersection I had passed through 100s of times before. I was relaxed, probably listening to the radio, maybe thinking about a girl I liked at school. And then, sudden and immediate possibility of Death crisis!

On my left, a 3 Ton lumber truck was skidding on the frozen ice through the stop sign and directly at me. It loomed terrifyingly tall in my driver’s side window. And suddenly, all my world was passing in dreamy slow motion...

In real Time, only a second or two could have passed but in the sudden danger that I was thrown into, Time stretched out into a period that seemed to last for minutes as I tried everything to escape from the impending crash. Another curious aspect was how calm and quiet everything seemed as I tried these various things – like being in a bubble. I tried to brake but could feel the tires start to skid on the ice and could see that that wouldn’t get me out of the way. Next, I tried to accelerate out of the way but the truck just grew larger in the window. Finally, I tried to drive my way out of the crash.

Then, sudden blackness.

I woke up, covered with glass, slumped over in the seat with my car tilted at a crazy angle up on top of a tall snow drift. The whole left side of my car was crumpled in. A huge lump was developing on the left side of my head from when it had cracked off the door frame. My left leg was wedged in between the buckled door and the steering wheel. From a great distance, a face right at the broken window was telling me to turn off the ignition.

I ended up in hospital for a few days and in bed for a week – concussion, bad bruises, a back that is still wonky decades later – but all I could think about once my head cleared was what an extraordinary experience that elongated stretch of Time had been before the now blacked out crash. It was the most incredible experience of my life up until that point. How could those split seconds end up seeming like minutes and minutes?

That experience started me on the trip of trying to learn more about Time and understand it and I’m still on the journey these many years later. I admit to a slight obsession on the subject and am still intrigued by its mystery.

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Keeping Time

So, going back to all our not quite satisfactory definitions, I guess one can say that finally – like with Love or God – we have to take Time on faith. For the way our World has come to operate, we have to buy into the proposition that Time is real, that it exists and that our main interaction with it is to measure it and align the moments of our life with it. From the biblical life span of three score and ten down to the three minute egg, we define our lives by the duration we live in.

In some ways, it is not a benign relationship – many have referred to the “Tyranny of Time”, how we humans are frog marched through our existences by Time – made to punch a time clock, stick to a schedule, answer the bell, serve the unforgiving minute. We relish our “free time”, our “time off”, our “time out”.

But Time, as they say, keeps marching on and for most of us, it is important to get into step. When I was directing films, we planned every day down to the minute and tried to stick to it. Our TV shows are delivered to a precise 1/30th of a second in length. I was delighted when I came upon the timeanddate.com services – now I have a personal World Clock on my desktop that instantly tells me the time in 20 places on 6 continents. It’s great to know the time in Buenos Aires, or Fiji, or Melbourne where my daughter is working – from my past visits to many places, I can take pleasure in imagining what it’s like in that location at this moment or not make the mistake of calling a friend in Bangkok in the middle of night.

There is a real romance to the subject of Time once you start to delve into it. It is a sense that we count on to give definition to our lives but we can’t really get a firm grasp on what it means. There are countless subplots to the story of Time that are fascinating to dig into and that are both satisfying and interesting to learn about. But to me, the real beauty to Time, like the way we respond to good poetry or elegant dance or even the glory of Nature, is that we can’t really say why it moves us so. The very enigma of Time is a part of the great mystery of our human existences – who we are, where we come from, where we are going, what is our place in the Universe?

And now it is Time to go.

Your ideas, your opinions, your own experiences with Time are gratefully requested here.

See you next Time...

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Comments
  Jonni Anderson
Intriguing, the whole concept of time, including the suggestion that all time is
happening at once, a spiral. Takes a bit of stretching to get my head around
that one, still working on it. And your comparison with Love or God, Good ONE!
Submitted 2010-03-13 23:49:57
  ibnu abdullah
lo! baking a cake and naming that cake doesnt make that cake your whole life its
just merely food and time is like wise it aint everything that we are
Submitted 2010-03-27 15:33:16
  Marc White! (Actual spelling. Please include !)
This well written article, by a man who is clearly passionate about his subject
matter, sadly failed to move me at all. I was hoping to gain some insight that I
could put to use in my life, but was disappointed. I would like to see comments
that actually help people make better use of time, and enjoy what they are doing
more in each moment. Perhaps that is not a realistic expectation to have of a
writer who is merely a seeker of happiness as opposed to someone like myself who
actually chooses to be happy every day. This column has the potential to provide
a lot of practical inspiration, and I would love to see that promise fulfilled.
Warm regards from Marc White! "The Inspirer." (PS: My watch and my clocks are
highly valued items in my life.) (PPS: My country, Australia,is not in your
list!)
Submitted 2010-03-28 15:10:50