A Passion for Time

By Jeffrey the Barak.

Time is a cruel bedfellow. It never goes backwards and we can only lose it. As it goes on, we get older and older, and eventually die.

And yet how we love it so. We have defined it, reinvented it, measured it and subdivided it. I myself feel a great warmth and satisfaction in the knowledge that my watch is accurate to within a tiny fraction of a second, even though all I should really care about is when dawn and dusk are and when I should go to an appointment.

We have established measurements of time upon two real things. The year and the day. The year is the length of time it takes for our planet Earth to orbit the sun once. The day is the length of time it takes for our planet Earth to revolve on it’s axis.

Everything else is man-made. Hours, minutes, seconds, months, weeks and centuries are not real periods in nature, we just invented them to keep track of time. Only the year and the day are real, and neither the year nor the day start or end at any particular time or on any particular date, although the year has four strong contenders, namely the two solstices and the two equinoxes.

I am obsessed with time. I set my watches so that when the analog second hand or digital seconds display are at, for example 18, then I can be sure that it really is 18 seconds past the minute mark. Nothing else is good enough for me. This is obsessive, but I like it so.

I am upset with my cellphone carrier because they display the time of one second ago on my smartphone. Couldn’t they make an effort to get the right time on there. I mean it is one second behind. Annoying, despite the second being merely a man-made measurement.

It is this obsession, which I am calling a passion, that made me switch from automatic watches to quartz watches. You either have the right time or the wrong time. The almost right time is still the wrong time. Pass or fail. Only quartz can come close enough and stay there for a reasonably long time.

But timepieces are beautiful. Why? Because people who have had a passion for time have made clocks and watches in a beautiful way for centuries, and these most beautiful pieces have not been the most accurate. From a complicated clock to a modest watch movement, there is beauty in the workings of a timepiece that we began to lose when we discovered the superior accuracy of quartz. For many these movements are more important than whether the second hand is on the right place.

Time is our master, and yet we do not resent it. We celebrate it with each glance at the dial, or with each peek at the display.

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