It’s Like This

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Updated: January 5, 2018

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Time can be a funny thing. There are periods in our lives when it seems to fly by and other moments when it moves at an agonizingly slow pace. You have also probably known years when you anxiously waited for days to pass and others when you dreaded the passage of each page on the calendar.

I can be a terrible procrastinator. In college I would put off writing term papers until the last minute. Most papers were due at 5 p.m. on Mondays. I would go to the library at noon on Sunday and begin my research. When the library closed, I returned to my room and stayed up all night typing. I completed editing the masterpiece before reporting for work as a waiter at Duncan Dining Hall. I used freshmen to retype the final version, collected the pages, added blank cover sheets, bibliography and title page, then dashed to the professor’s office.

Of course, Egyptians think they invented time. While the land of the pyramids was the first place to come up with the concept of a 24-hour day, with 12 hours of night, 10 hours of day and two hours of twilight, other ancient cultures were well on their way to perfecting their own sun dials at the same time. There is a problem, however, with a shadow clock or sun dial, it doesn’t work very well at night. Amenophis I, king of Egypt wanted to know the time at night without having to run outside and check to see the position of Orion or the Big Dipper in the sky. Prince Amenemhet came up with a solution, a water clock. He took a bucket of water punched a hole in it and marked lines inside the bucket. The device was designed to leak water at the rate of one line per hour. It didn’t take these folks long to discover, however, temperature affected how fast water leaked from the bucket and they changed to sand, which, as we know, they had plenty of and could count on it trickling out of the device at a constant rate.

Later came mechanical devices. In 1581, a 17-years-old Galileo sat bored in church, like many a teenager before and since. He got to watching the chandelier in the Pisa cathedral swing back and forth and came up with the concept of the pendulum which he put to work with a pendulum clock. Methods for measuring time have continued to develop ranging from your faithful windup alarm clock to a nuclear clock keeping track of mili-seconds.

I think, as we begin a new year, how we measure time, how we cut it up in seconds, minutes, days, years and centuries, is not as important as what we do with our time. Have you made any plans for this year? The question for you and me is what will we do with the hours we have left? There is a play you perhaps read in school that asks the same question of a famous sinner:

“Ah, Faustus, Now hast thou but one bare hour to live, And then thou must be damn`d perpetually! Stand still, you ever – moving spheres of Heaven, That time may cease, and midnight never come; Fair Nature`s eye, rise, rise again and make Perpetual day; or let this hour be but A year, a month, a week, a natural day, That Faustus may repent and save his soul! O lente, lente, curite noctis equi. The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike, The Devil will come, and Faustus must be damn`d.”

Each of us has only a limited amount of time to complete our work. I want to suggest to you we have tasks remaining. I can hear you thinking, “Is he joking or just being cruel.” I realize you may not be up to plowing 40 acres this afternoon or chopping a chord of wood, but tasks you can do abound.

You can help your community through any one of numerous organizations. You can give money. You can give time. You can mend broken relationships. You can reinforce bonds of friendship and blood. You can deepen your spiritual life strengthening ties to a Creator for whom time is not finite.

Jesus asked his disciples, “Are there not 12 hours in a day?” How will you spend those hours this year? Will you be productive or just burn daylight?