Time Keeps on Ticking, Ticking…

IMG_0149TimeSmall I have once again waded into a quagmire–the occasion, an opportunity to talk with the small group of high school kids as they begin to think about their place in the world–in time and in place.

Place is easier to talk about than time, at least when you confine the discussion to latitude, longitude and altitude. It gets harder when you think about your place on a spinning, tilting, sun-wheeling planet in a spinning, galaxy-circling solar system, the whole package swirling and wheeling its way towards the theoretical edge of the theoretical universe. (One of countless multiverses?)

FACTOID: One galactic year for us is 230 million years: the time it takes for our little star system to make a complete revolution around the entire Milky Way galaxy.

Time, on the other hand, has no physics or chemistry, though it is a dimension set in motion by the beginning of post-Bang physics–entropy in particular. And sci-fi speculation notwithstanding, this thing called time (which someone said was created by God so that everything didn’t happen all at once) seems to be one-directional.

We can travel into the future. Going the other way, not so much.

If you look for an understanding of what time “is” you’ll wade into some deep water. It is sort of like attempting to define what “life” is. Maybe it depends on what your definition of IS is. : > }

We can say what material beings that have life DO (respire, metabolize, reproduce, etc) but we still cannot define LIFE apart from those living things.

Wikipedia admits: “Time has long been a major subject of study in religion, philosophy, and science, but defining it in a manner applicable to all fields without circularity has consistently eluded scholars.”

So I feel a little better for my own puny attempts to know this medium that makes NOW the future of a few minutes past.


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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Hi Fred
    I have been working on this for a year of so now. We can go back in time if we start to look at our ancestry. We can start with the easy part of our parents but then go back to our ethnic history and their culture. Then we can go back to our time as Hunter Gatherers. – 4 million years as living in small bands and how this made us human and separated us from the rest. We can see how the modern world shapes us and how different it is to what we have evolved to be and then we can look into the future and see what might be the result of living today – so estranged from who we really are and how nature works – and ask what will be the likely outcome. I know in this short comment this all looks a bit odd but I have a framework that I am working on that we could discuss if you want – might help the kids see who they are – through time and space – for the model includes the mind and the body, the past the present and the future.