New Year’s Musings: What is the Measure of Time?

January 2022 Newsletter

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New Year’s Eve has come and gone once more. For a few hours, the entire world paused to acknowledge the passing of another year. By dawn on January 2nd, nearly all echoes of Happy New Year and Good Riddance to 2021 had faded away, and we resumed our lives. What intrigues me is that pause, or more specifically the nature of a year, which is nothing more than a human construct.

Time is woven into the fabric of the universe, but calendars are something else entirely. Though we imbue calendars with all sorts of metaphysical and poetic meaning, they are merely our attempt to control nature, hoping to impose our will onto the ongoing circling of planets and stars. But where is the beginning and end in a circle?

Calendars were invented to measure and compartmentalize time into hours, days, months and years. They organize society, mark agricultural seasons, and track our responsibilities to the government, to our religion(s), and to each other. In other words, their primary purpose is bureaucratic.

So what is New Year’s Eve? What is January 1st? For that matter, what is June 12th or 5:18 PM? Why do these abstract concepts define our lives? I would say it’s because we’re social rather than solitary animals; we want our lives to be in sync with those around us. What’s more, human beings are naturally curious. We were born to ask questions, to wonder about the past, to hope and plan for the future. Calendars are among the foundational structures that support our lifelong quest to understand and learn.

But when we come down to it, no matter how we measure and compartmentalize time, the only aspect of it that we can fully grasp is Now (the subject of my new year’s poem from several years ago). And the only certainty is our need to connect with others, becoming something larger than this solitary creature that is delimited by the boundaries of our skin.

Such are the musings that swirl in my mind every year, during the runup to December 31st. In that pause of life that was the most recent New Year’s Eve, thoughts about time and touch — and calendars and quicksilver mercury — coalesced into my new year’s poem for 2022: The Measure of Time.

If 2020 and 2021 have taught us anything it’s that we can’t know what this new year will bring. Good or bad, we’ll mark the passing of time in our calendars. I hope we will also fill the days with good memories and shared celebrations.

 

Wishing you and yours a year of health, a long string of wondrous Nows, and daily human connections.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Sally

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