Tyranny of time | Sunday Observer

Tyranny of time

14 May, 2023

Time is too slow for those who wait,
Too swift for those who fear,
Too long for those who grieve,
Too short for those who rejoice;
But for those who love,
Time is eternity.
-Henry Van Dyke

“Time and tide wait for no man” is an oft-quoted old adage. We know that it is true. However, everything depends on how you think about time. Dr. Larry Dossey, author of “Space, Time and Machine,” was a pioneer in the emerging science of chronobiology which is the study of how time interacts with life. He says, “Time sickness” is a common illness in society. The sense of time pressure causes anxiety and tension.

When you are rushing to your workplace, a man or woman idling on the road asks what the time is. For them time has no meaning but they want to know it. One day I went to see a patient in hospital. At once he asked me what the time was. Therefore, Dossey’s claim that we are ruled by clocks remains a truism.

According to expert opinion, when you worry too much about something, it can lead to heart disease or stroke. They are two of the most frequent causes of death. Apart from death, time sickness may lead to peptic ulcers and migraine headaches which can be successfully treated by changing the way how you think of time.

In an experiment, Dossey used to keep two antique clocks in his office. One clock ran fast all the time and the other was pretty slow. The clocks reminded him that life is not ruled by clocks and you can choose the time you live by.

He saw a nexus between time and health when he noticed that many patients insisted on having clocks in their wards. He calls them ‘time addicts.’ Since childhood they had been taught to schedule their lives by the clock. As a result, if you walk into any house or business organisation you will see clocks everywhere.

Time addicts

To a great extent most of us are time addicts. It seems that human life will come to a standstill if there are no clocks. The alarm clock tells us the time to get up. You get ready while watching the wall clock. On your way to office, you constantly look at your watch.

In the workplace, you have to follow the clock. Office hours, lunch break and how many hours you have to put in will depend on the clock. It is a pity that we have become slaves of the clock. If there are no clocks around, you will not know whether you have come to office early or late.

They say time is money. Both have to be saved and spent wisely. Money can be saved by depositing it in a bank. To save time, you have to depend on technology. There are many time-saving gadgets in your house. The washing machine saves your time to a great extent. If it is not there, you will have to spend a lot of time to hand-wash your clothes.  The kitchen is also full of time-saving devices.

Today housewives do not waste time scraping coconuts. Readymade coconut milk or powder is available for sale. The grinding stone is a thing of the past. They use finely-ground condiments. As in the past we do not travel in bullock carts. We use fast-moving cars, buses and trains.

Mother Nature does not work according to the clock time. She knows when to give you rain, storms, tsunamis, floods and sunshine. Scientists have discovered that the natural biological hour consists of roughly about 63 minutes. Cavemen had no clocks to govern their life.

They would have spent more than 24 hours for daily activities. Although we no longer live in caves, we still carry biological clocks synchronised with the rhythms of nature. Even if you do not have clocks, you will go to bed and get up at a particular time decided by the biological clock.

Biological time

Nature seems to help animals more than humans when it comes to biological time. Certain creatures, notably crabs, can sense when the tide is about to change. During the tsunami disaster most wild animals saved their lives thanks to their biological clocks. Scientists tell us how the nocturnal mouse awakens when night nears. Similarly the bear knows when to prepare for its long winter nap.

Biological clocks may not be accurate like man-made digital clocks. Biological clocks are capable of adjusting to changes in the environment. Circardian rhythms have been detected in rising and falling tides of chemicals, temperature and other body changes.

Biological clocks adjust automatically when days are long in summer and nights are long in winter. In addition, each living organism has its own 24-hour rhythm suited to the environment and the individual.

With the aid of biological clocks, we are able to recognise changes in light. The brain monitors light reaching our eyes distinguishing day from night. The brain also controls our sleeping, waking, growth and sexuality. By the way, light is the most powerful synchroniser in most living beings. It has been found that babies are born synchronised with their mothers’ biological clocks.

However, they later begin to adjust themselves to the rhythm of whatever they hear. In an experiment, scientists have found that babies’ body motions become synchronised with rhythms of parents’ speech. In a grown-up person, however, the mind can alter rhythm of time.

Hispanic cultures

From childhood, we have been conditioned to follow the clock time. However, different cultures perceive time differently. In industrialised countries, life is tightly controlled by time. You are not supposed to keep someone waiting. On the other hand, in Hispanic cultures, people take precedence over time schedules thereby making appointments more flexible.

For practical purposes, we have to be guided by the clock. Otherwise there would be no development. The danger lies in the fact that when the body clocks get out of sync and physical and mental performances will be adversely affected. When clock time is out of sync with natural inner rhythm, stress can occur. Stress is a major cause for death.

There is no need to fear ‘time illness.’ It can be prevented by certain methods. For instance, if we can break the habit of looking at clocks, time will become a lesser concern. At the same time, set your own inner sense of biological time.

Albert Einstein gives a fine illustration: “To a person sitting on a hot stove, two minutes could feel like two hours; to the young man with a pretty girl, two hours could seem like two minutes.”

If you are a constant clock watcher, try to get rid of the addiction. Your life is more important than clock time. Try to live by your inner rhythm. Always try to synchronise yourself with nature. Spend a few minutes every day watching the sunset or cloud formation.

Look at the full moon in a cloudless sky. Although clocks are necessary to regulate our mundane activities, try to live in harmony with nature. At least try to spend a holiday without looking at the clock. Do not become a slave to the clock, instead be its master!

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