© 2006Time is a funny thing. Your experience tells you it changes, yet the clock on the wall, the watch on your wrist, and the relentless progression of it declare it is constant, that is to say, it never changes, it just marches forward, each second the same as the last, each day the length of the previous, never changing even though we know it does.
Every year the seasons change, and though the calendar says they begin at the same time, we know when they start and end are as predictable as the numbers on a roulette wheel. Sure there is a range of when it will occur, but the exact day, just as the exact number to bet on, changes all the time. The shift to spring will surely occur sometime in March or April, but to say that it occurs with a specific position of the sun relative to the earth is ludicrous.
Those are the obvious changes in time. Others are less so. For instance, the ancient Babylonian calendars before BC 70 used to have only 360 days. It’s the reason a circle is defined as having 360 degrees, an obvious way for man to interpret his world. But now a year is 365 and ¼ days, with every 4th year being 366 to make up the extra quarter day. What the present forgets is that a year used to be shorter.
There’s a new one that is even harder to prove, but is compelling to consider since it reinforces a common experience we all feel these days. Time is speeding up.Time is actually defined by the number of events occurring within a given time frame. The current definition for a second is defined in terms of the number of cycles of an electron in a particular atom per second. But in our macroscopic world, we perceive it by the number of events we recognize going on day by day. When you consider that we live in the information age, and the amount of information being disseminated is growing exponentially, it’s easier to see why time seems to be speeding up.
Which is why I like to indulge in ways to make it slow down. I think it is one of the key ingredients to the restorative powers of meditation, the deliberate focusing on a single concept and tuning out the myriad distractions of life. As the number of events bombarding your senses declines, time slows down.Like you, I like to do that meditation while breaking trail up a snow covered mountain. Every stride takes me a few inches above the worries of the world, and by the time the sweat begins to drip from my brow, I’m deep in the simple task of finding the path of least resistance to the summit of a peak. Daily concerns are purged through my pores, and by the time I’m at the top, my only concern is determining where to begin the ultimate downshifting of time as I indulge in the simple sensation of turning my skis through an undefiled line back to where I began.
The good news is that it’s that time again right now. We sit on the cusp of another season of earning turns on steep slopes, in deep powder, under blue, gray, windy and stormy skies. I can’t tell you what day the season will begin, because we live in changing times. I only know that the time is about to change again, and this time into winter.
This is a reprint of an article that was first published in Couloir XIX-3, Nov. 2006.