Early Writings of Evan Bailyn

What Is Time?

Posted by on Thursday, January 19th, 2012 with 0 comments

Time is a metaphor used to express the non-spatial distance between events. What we commonly refer to as time is actually measured time, or time as defined by clocks, daylight, and revolutions of the earth. However, a more satisfying version of time is perceived time, or time as defined by our own minds.

The difference between measured and perceived time is easy to illustrate: I am in the waiting room of a doctor’s office and it seems like I’ve been there for hours. But when I look at the clock on the wall, I see that it’s only been fifteen minutes. Who is correct, me or the clock?

Most people would easily reply “the clock” because we have a commonly-accepted standard of correctness: that which is testable and consistently yields the same result is “correct.” If the doctor repeatedly engaged in the same exact activities from the moment I sat down in the waiting room until the moment I thought to myself “I’ve been here for hours” the clock would consistently show fifteen minutes. Without a doubt, the testability of clock time makes it the most convenient standard of time. Clock time regulates our lives. It allows two people in different parts of town to meet up at the same time.

However, convenience is the only feature clock time can truly be credited with. In fact, it is not more correct than perceived time because the very concept of correctness and incorrectness is completely subjective.

I, like every other being, perceive the world through my own sensory and mental faculties. Thus, to me, my beliefs are correct, while others may feel quite differently. One person might be convinced that his God is the true God, while another person might feel equally strongly about another God. It is amazing to think that such a disparity could exist, that both men could feel with such unwavering certainty that their view is correct. The unsettling truth is that there is no objective perception of things, no matter how much we would like there to be for our own peace of mind.

The subjectivity of perception is impossible to ignore, and there are many examples of it. A classic proverb, “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?” illustrates the same concept. But as it relates to this writing, it serves to show that measured time is not the only acceptable interpretation of time.

Another interesting offshoot of the subjectivity-of-perception discussion is the fact that the past cannot possibly be recorded accurately. A hundred people watching the same event will describe it a hundred different ways. Add to that confusion the fact that the senses are flawed, and may misconstrue impressions because of past experience or mental state, and the past begins to look like a true fabrication of the mind.

The future, of course, has not happened yet and thus cannot even be interpreted by individual minds. In a sense, then, it doesn’t exist.

This is the nature of time: it is interpreted in the present, fabricated in the past, and non-existent in the future.

Evan Bailyn is a serial entrepreneur, search engine and social media expert, celebrated author and child advocate. His company, First Page Sage, is a leader in search engine optimization and social media marketing - vastly increasing business for its clients through high SEO rankings, targeted Facebook advertising and viral videos. Evan is also the founder of the Evan Bailyn Foundation, a foundation dedicated to teaching emotional awareness to children and adults. 

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