Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Time on the Horizon

It is perhaps interesting to think about the changing nature of time in the context of history. Our life spans, for example, have increased; and yet our accelerating pace of suggests that in terms of our perception, we haven’t much noticed. Clocks themselves are a relatively recent invention, and we have exacted that science down to the atomic level with our timepieces now remotely coordinated by radio signal from thousands of miles away. And if you look at ebay, you will find that time keeping antiques such as hourglasses and sundials fetch enormous sums of cash. We celebrate our birthdays religiously, and then lie about how many of them we have had. We look to genetics as the secret to longevity while being simultaneously reminded by the Good Book that life is as dew, here one moment and gone the next. Unions long ago fought for the forty-hour workweek, and we have come to associate punching a time clock with the counting down of our lives. We are centrally concerned, perhaps even obsessed, with time. Indeed Western civilization itself is based upon the notion of linear progress.

We free-market types are especially concerned with time in that markets rely on price, and one of the primary determinants for setting price is time – especially the time it takes to do or make something. Time is a resource just as surely as your car, house, or certificate of deposit. This last semester reminded me painfully of this reality. With a semester that exceeded 21 hours, plus a family and other obligations, the premium I in turn placed upon my time increased significantly, to the extent that I was forced to scale back production in other areas of my life – this blog one of them (though I might add that my own blog was also sacrificed). This semester was quite interesting. As some of you know, I am finishing up my senior year at Bethany College. That means that all of my courses are either capstone courses or otherwise upper division classes in addition to an internship and senior project. In fact I just finished my internship with – ironically enough – the Pittsburgh City Council (much more on that to come). I greatly regret that I have been silent for these last months, and am hopeful that my good friends will welcome me back to their company with smiles and hugs (okay, maybe not the hugs). In any case, you should expect to hear from me much more frequently these next months. (Also, a special hello to Mike, the newest member of LLL: I hope that we will become better acquainted as the weeks roll on.)

One final thought. While I think that Steven Davies was absolutely correct, and that things are getting better, there nonetheless seems to be in our midst and in our time a sense that the future is bleak. Our day is marked by a loss of hope and faith in the potential of mankind. The generation that sent man to the moon now trembles at the thought of sending him to Mars (don’t worry David – I’m not plugging NASA). When is the last time we built a Statue of Liberty? A pyramid (which, by the way, are the ultimate precision time pieces)? A Hoover Dam? Whatever our bias about the way in which these kinds of things tend to come about, the lack of them does seem to suggest a certain lack of vision or grandeur. Pal Valery has commented that, “The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be.” I submit to you that it might time to change that.

2 comments:

-Ron said...

And did I type Mike's name in there for the new guy!?!? I am soo sorry. I was thinking of Tim, but at that moment glancing at Mike's updated profile. In my defense, though, I never claimed to be able to walk 'and' chew gum at the same time. That kind of talent is reserved strictly for the bearded Viking.

David said...

Oh the Mike comment was an accident. I thought that you were making a stab at him because he hasn't posted for a while either and, unlike you, he doesn't have nearly as many good excuses. I still recall a many games of Settlers and Magic during this past semester. We love you, Mike. Now write something! :)

Ron, I disagree with you assertion that we're not reaching our potential because we're not making some grand thing (or doing some grand thing). First, we got this crazy thing called the Internet which I find more inspiring and useful than a statue (more available, too).

Second, the true mark of a civilization isn't merely marked by its art, constructs and endeavors. It's also illustrated by its attitudes to others, adaptablity to te world and innventions that don't always change the world in such a profound way as landing a man on the moon.

Third, and speaking of time, we lack perception. The Effiel was thought to be ugly when first constructed as a temporary monument for the World's Fair. Few artists were appreciated in their time. Numerous other works were created with people knowing about it until after they became famous or people thinking they were temporary or insignificant (Tower at Pisa also comes to mind). What's being made now that will marvel our children? We have no idea, but it's fun creating great things so we have no reason to believe it will slow or stop. (Indeed, current technology, wealth and population levels suggest we will have more, not less, wonders in the decades to come.)