Clock, the time-keeper, is our central machine. This machine dictates our every movement. There are different levels of time. At the lowest level, time is perceived only in the sense of duration. At the highest level, time is ‘eternal now’; when there is ‘eternal now’, there is no ‘after’. This will be the time when time will end. In other words, time will end when one attains the highest Level of being. The paradox is that, when time will end, all activity will cease (“the end of time would be the end of endings”) and there will be no hope of attaining the highest imaginable level of being. When, and if, time ends, there will be no witnesses. We would never be able to beat the clock, because, for that, we will have to move faster than the speed of light, and that is not possible. We should do what we can do, with time. We should know how to spend our time. We should know how to reach on time.
Mahatma Gandhi was never late for an appointment. One of his most preferred material possessions was his lady watch (Ingersoll pocket watch) that “never left his side”. Nina Martyris rightly calls him “the most punctual man in India”. His watch stopped when Gandhiji breathed his last, on 30 January, 1948. The final check-out time was precisely 5:12 pm. That day Gandhiji was late for his evening prayer meeting.
Gandhiji believed that we are merely trustees of our time. “It is not ours. It belongs to the nation and we are trustees for the use of it.” Whenever he gave time to someone, along with it he gave his undivided attention. He was equally careful that he was not giving more time than is required to anybody. Gandhiji was among the few exceptions in a country like ours where “the preoccupation is with eternity, and little measures of time are hardly ever noticed.”
The end of one moment is the beginning of another moment. Aristotle said that time neither has a beginning nor end. Time is relative; a second today is not the same as a second tomorrow. We are constantly changing and so are the facts around us. Fast changing facts, like the principles of politicians, have very short half-lives. On the other hand, slow-changing facts, like the height and the location of Mount Everest, have very large half-lives, nevertheless have half-lives. The author of The Half-Life of Facts, Samuel Arbesman, argues that “Far better than learning facts is learning how to adapt to changing facts.” His message: embrace change rather than fight it. The wise advise us to keep some time for ourselves. One shouldn’t feel guilty that he has free time. Free time is good time. It is also useful to know that happy times are best remembered when we are happy.
Bipin Chandra Pal beautifully describes the Indian psyche in his book The Soul of India. He says that India is more transcendental than formal, more metaphysical than scientific, more imaginative than positive, more idealistic than realistic. Indian values are more intellectual than physical, internal than external, emotional than rational. For example, when one walks a mile to meet a friend, he feels he walked only a few steps. If he has to go for an unpleasant work, he will say he walked a mile when in reality he might have walked only a few steps. “When a friend meeting a friend after a few weeks says — when I have not seen you for ages — he really neither exaggerates nor lies, but simply applies his own inner emotional standard to the measurement of our time”.
(The writer is a biotechnologist and ED, Birla Institute of Scientific Research, Jaipur)
Purnendu Ghosh