Our Greatest Currency

Until I am measured, I am not known… yet how you miss me when I have flown. 

What am I?

Let's spend a little bit of time… talking about time.

A thing we all share exactly the same and yet, how differently we each pass our time.

There is far more about this subject than I can canvass with the time that I have so I’ll cover some of the most interesting aspects I’ve discovered. I got thinking about time whilst overseas, obviously with the time difference between countries, and since arriving back in Australia a lot of things have happened that have highlighted the importance of time.

I’ll do my best to present a very brief history of time and what it is, how we have come to measure it as we do and perhaps the most interesting to me, how we relate to time and the intrinsic value of it in our lives.

There are, inevitably, some philosophical musings peppered throughout, so if you’d like to join me in a land not so far away…

Once upon a time… there may have been no time at all.

If we were to believe the Theory of Relativity, space and time did not exist before the Big Bang 13.7 Billion years ago. This is when all the matter of our universe was compressed into a tiny ball. It is motion in space that allows time to exist.

As the curious creatures we are, humans seem to have been preoccupied with time as far back as archaeological artefacts have revealed. Largely, there has been a very consistent effort across ancient civilisations to accurately record the passage of time.

We have evolved many different ways of keeping the time – as ironic as that term has come to be. After all how could we possibly keep something we can’t see or touch or capture?

The system we use today is an amalgamation of a few different methods and we owe a lot to the ancient Babylonians. They gave us the 12 hour day and 12 hour night.  Their hours comprised 60 minutes with 60 seconds creating a single minute. It so happened that multiples of 12 times 5 were considered especially mystical in ancient Babylon. 

The earliest measurements were by sunlight, eventually resulting in the sundial. During the night fire clocks – notched candles or knotted ropes, water clocks and hourglasses were used. Despite moves to create uniform time, societies still generally kept seasonally varying hours until the advent of the mechanical clock in Europe around the 14 Century.

Time governs our existence.

The industrial revolution in particular reframed how we spent our time as a workforce as well as outside of work and has led to the model that most of us adhere to today in a society that demands more of our time constantly.

So important is time that we have a keeper of it tonight, and, out beyond these four walls, we all do our best to be keepers of our own time.

From the mundane like setting alarms, getting meals ready, getting to work or appointments to the more exhilarating – when you carve out time for your pursuits of passion, those secret moments in the day, week, month, year where you do something you crave – or nothing at all.

And yet – what is time?

Intangible.

Invisible.

Infinite.

Yet terrifyingly finite. 

Einstein said: For us physicists, the distinction between past, present and future is only an illusion, however persistent.

In essence – time exists, but doesn’t exist. Entertain for a moment that my last word is now in the past and the moment we become aware of the present that instantly becomes the past.

I won’t even go into time travel. 

Time, in fact, not money is our greatest currency.

An invaluable and non-renewable resource, time is something that might often escape us. Why? Personally, I find that I am increasingly encouraged to keep up with a lifestyle that wants to take more and more of my time.

Time has become a commodity that people now specialise in managing and, I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly looking for tips and tricks to help me manage my time better both at work and at play.

Time flies.

I returned to work this month to news that two of my colleagues had lost people dear to them. One lost her nan aged 93 and the other, her fiancee mere months before their wedding. Both devastating in their own right but a sound reminder of the value of our time. 

Every day, our time bank is reset and we might sometimes forget that our time is something we have influence over, not simply something that happens to us or exists abstractly around us. 

Has anyone caught themselves saying, “I’ll find time to do that later” to anything they’ve always wanted to do? I do this all the time.

The inherent irony of that statement is – there is no more time to be found. There is no secret reserve of time we are able to tap into.

Time, majestically infinite yet brutally finite for the living.

Academic Randy Pausch gives a great address on time management at Carnegie Mellon which is well worth a watch. The most important thing I took away, and what I’d like to leave you with as I wrap up my very brief exploration of this subject is something he said that made me think about time in my life a little differently:

You don’t find time for important things, you make time.