By Dora A. Ayora Talavera Ph.D.
I always believed, that time was just a noun, a word that describe an abstract or concrete reality. Suddenly, after reading the next Julio Cortázar’s story on his book “Historias de Cronopios y de Famas” it has an amazing perspective. Let’s play with it!
Preamble to the instructions on how to wind a watch
(Translated by Paul Blackburn)
Think of this: when they present you with a watch, they are gifting you with a tiny flowering hell, a wreath of roses, a dungeon of air. They aren’t simply wishing the watch on you, and many more, and we hope it will last you, it’s a good grand, Swiss, seventeen rubies; they aren’t just giving you this minute stonecutter which will bind you by the wrist and walk along with you. They are giving you – they don’t know it, it’s terrible that they don’t know it – they are gifting you with a new fragile and precarious piece of yourself, something that’s yours but not a part of your body, that you have to strap to your body like your belt, like a tiny, furious bit of something hanging onto your wrist. They gift you with the job of having to wind it every day, an obligation to wind it, so that it goes on being a watch, they gift you with the obsession of looking into jewelry-shop windows to check the exact time, check the radio announcer, check the telephone service. They give you the gift of fear, someone will steal it from you, it’ll fall on the street and get broken. They give you the gift of your trademark and the assurance that it’s a trademark better than others, they gift you with the impulse to compare your watch with other watches. They aren’t giving you a watch, you are the gift, they are giving you yourself for the watch’s birthday.
Measuring time, is probably one of the biggest consensus that human beings have, even though how and when measure it is not exactly the same.
To some, we live in 2015; to others in 4713. In Chinese calendar every year can have twelve or thirteen months and between 353 and 385 days; to us every year have twelve months and 365 or 366 days. To Mayan culture time is counted through cycles, thirteen months with twenty days each one, 260 days per year. Thus, we live on AC. while others lived on BC.
What a perspective!
However these conceptions time constructs us. It is through it that life starts and finishes – though to some actual life start after death, to others we just reincarnate – it gives to life cycles, stages, moments and short and long term effects.
If time as concept constructs, what does it make us?
As a noun, time is not innocent; we have given it more properties that really “belong” to it. It is not a neutral noun that only refers to something. Time, defines the start and end of things, what is past and what is present. It has as well effects on us depending on its actions as “adjective” or “verb”
As an adjective, time qualifies us; it makes us old and young, it also makes us punctual, irresponsible, dissatisfied, resigned and obsessive people. It is also a way, to judge what we do pointing out what is right and what is wrong – e.g. when something happens at appropriate moment- it dictates what is real because is durable and remains; and what is trivial because it is ephemeral.
As a verb, it makes us act, because it makes us go faster or delay decisions –carpe diem- trying to care it; when we are conscious about life and death, it makes us buy, save, assure, trying to project our future; when something happens in a wrong timing it makes us stops and reflects on; when we feel that time is passing, we do what is right studying, paying and sometimes getting pregnant.
Time is as relative – time will tell!- as categorical – here and now!-; it is as cruel –your time is over!- as fun – we have more time than life!-. Either way, as noun, verb or adjective, time shapes us to live on right moment, specific tasks and expected actions.
Don’t even talk about time as an adverb! It will make us seek uselessly, dream intensely, and maybe love desperately.
Have you ever have stood on Greenwich meridian playing to be in the past and in the present, or in the present and in the future, depending on the way you want see it.
- Cortázar, J. (2000) PREÁMBULO A LAS INSTRUCCIONES PARA DAR CUERDA AL RELOJ. Historias de Cronopios y de Famas, Alfaguara. p. 12.