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It's About Time

January 1, 2012
By GLYNIS VALENTI - Staff Writer ( , Times Leader

"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once."

-Albert Einstein

Everyone knows about time, but no one knows for certain what it is. Scientists are not sure of its origins-if it is fundamental (an entity existing on its own) or emergent (as temperature is generated by movement of atoms). Time isn't tangible, but it is quantified. Categorizing is how the mind wraps itself around an abstract concept.

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20th century writer, philosopher and artist Guy Murchie offers one of the plainest descriptions of time in his book “The Seven Mysteries of Life.” Murchie, while looking at the world as a whole, says that time is the relationship of each thing to itself. One looks at oneself “now” as compared to “then,” and time is the measurement of that relationship’s reality.

The word "time" is Middle English, rooted in Old English "tima" and Old Norse "timi." It is also related to Old English "tid" or tide, which used to mean a "space of time." According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word "time" has 14 definitions for the noun, five for the verb and three for the adjective. The fact that something one cannot touch has so many qualities and definitions is demonstration of its complexity and universality.

Psychologically, physically and by definition, by the time the brain registers the "now," it is the "past." It takes about 80 milliseconds for the brain to process simple signals. Theoretically, the concept of time is more difficult to pinpoint. Scientists versed in quantum physics study time's relationship to space, and Einstein himself leaned toward a fourth dimensional rather than a three dimensional world when considering each individual moment holding not only the present, but all of the past before it and all of its implied future as well. It is the human brain seeking order and explanation that divides time into increments and lines them up.

It is also true that each person has his own time clock incorporating biorhythms, experiences and perceptions regardless of what the clock on the wall says. Time flies, drags or even stops perceptually. Traveling through space, the body clock slows as speed increases and approaches the speed of light, though decades could be passing on earth.

According to Joseph R. Giove, executive producer of the "Shift of the Ages" project, 20th century writer, philosopher and artist Guy Murchie offers one of the plainest descriptions of time in his book "The Seven Mysteries of Life." Murchie, while looking at the world as a whole, says that time is the relationship of each thing to itself. One looks at oneself "now" as compared to "then," and time is the measurement of that relationship's reality. He defines space as the relationship of one thing to other things.

"Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep at night."

-William Blake

Outside of physicists and mystics who comprehend time as infinite and simultaneous (past, present and future, forever one), most humans see time in measurements: nanoseconds, minutes, hours, years, eons, etc.

This most likely began with dawn and dusk. Millions of years ago, hunters and gatherers gauged their tasks and journeys around the position of the sun in the sky. Later inhabitants noticed changes in the moon's appearance on its nightly trip through the heavens. These basic components have not changed much. Days measure the position of the sun in the sky. Months (or "moon-ths") are, roughly, lunar cycles every 29.53 days. A year is a measurement of the earth's trek around the sun and encompasses the four seasons.

For 3000 years, calendars were conflicting and inconsistent calculations of lunar and astronomical cycles, harvest celebrations and religious observances. In the sixth century, Dionysius Exiguus, a scholar charting a 19 year cycle of Easter holidays, established the birth of Christ as the beginning of the new Christian calendar, termed Anni Domini Nostri Jesu Christi-or A.D. What he didn't establish, however, was the actual birth date of Christ. Because of said conflicting records, lack of information and several hundred years' passage, the "beginning" of the calendar is still technically arbitrary, but accepted.

Julius Caesar tried to standardize the system by creating months with fixed numbers of days (including a month named for himself,) but after his death those continuing the process miscalculated start dates and began adding a day every three years instead of four years as designed. The most widely used calendar today is the Gregorian calendar presented in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. Its cycle actually covers 400 years and was developed by Pope Gregory's predecessor in an effort to re-align the Easter celebration with the spring equinox-a result of the Julian calendar debacle .

In 1752, the Crown decried that all of Britain and its colonies (including America) would use the Gregorian calendar. There are about 40 different calendars in use today, most of them culture and religion-based. The Gregorian calendar is the worldwide standard for civil use, though holidays vary with cultures and countries.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

-Charles Dickens

The hype has been building for the year 2012. Will December 21, 2012 be the last day of earth?

Probably not. Will 2012 and 2013 bring major shifts and changes to life on earth? Quite possibly.

The speculation and discussion centers around the Mayan calendar-it ends on Dec. 21, 2012. For the past few years people have been predicting doom and gloom of apocalyptic proportions for what would appear to be the final year of the planet. The Mayas today are not among these people and, in fact, are distressed that non-Mayas are misinterpreting their beliefs. According to "Shift of the Ages," the Mayan predictions are actually about the state of the earth's resources and reinstating balance. Their calendar portends the coming of the "6th Sun" or a new age, but this could take a long time.

Part of the reason for the calendar's end date is astrological, incorporating the ancient methods of telling time. On Dec. 21, 2012 a unique planetary phenomenon will occur. At 11:12 GMT during the winter solstice, the sun will be at exactly the center of the galaxy, at 0 degrees Capricorn and nearly sextile to Neptune at Pisces. Astrologers point out another unusual configuration, a yod-or "finger of God"-with three nearly exact quincunxes between Jupiter, Pluto, Saturn and a Mercury/Venus conjunction.

What do all of these configurations and symbols mean? The Mayas consider the center of the galaxy as a womb. It represents death, rebirth and transformation. Neptune (representing spirituality, confusion and floods) at Pisces indicates a spiritual experience that may include a loss. The yod itself is a transformational indicator. Jupiter, representing expansion, is the focus of the yod and will receive and expand the other planets' energies. Jupiter is also the planet representing religions, beliefs and philosophies. Pluto represents radical transformation as well as death and rebirth, while Saturn is the planet of lessons, usually painful or difficult lessons. In short, the ride will be bumpy for everyone, especially those refusing to adjust their attitudes and work for the common good.

Turbulence during 2011 seems to be an indication of planets moving into place and why the Mayas are calling for people to shift their own actions and beliefs away from conspicuous consumption and toward preservation.

"I went to a restaurant that serves 'breakfast any time.' So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance."

-Stephen Wright

In general, humans accept time as it is and only obsess over it when holidays, deadlines and appointments loom. There are, however, people who do take a greater interest in time and offer some time trivia as proof.

The Oxford Dictionary reports that "time" is the most used noun in the English language. "The" is the most used word overall.

Months that begin on a Sunday, such as January 2012, always have a Friday the 13th. Also, approximately 50 percent of bank robberies happen on Friday.

Noon used to be 3 p.m. According to, the day was sectioned into two 12-hour segments long before clocks were invented in the 1300's. A town bell rang every three hours beginning at daylight (around 6 a.m., called prime.) It rang again three hours later at 9 a.m. (terce,) six hours after prime at 12 p.m (sext,) and nine hours after prime at 3 p.m. (none.) Catholic monks said prayers at terce, sext and none. As traditions changed, the none prayers moved closer to 12 p.m. as did the midday meal, and the Latin "none" became the Old English "non" evolving into today's "noon" by the 1500's.

Finally, those traveling by Concord from London to New York City for the holidays will have extra time to celebrate. Because of the time zones and speed of the jet, passengers can actually arrive at their destination two hours before their departure.



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