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Monday, May 9, 2011

Time Tornadoes?

I read an interesting book on the weekend by Jeanette Winterson. "Tanglewreck" was written for young readers(early teenagers)but it "got me thinking".

Tanglewreck is a science fiction story set sometime in the near future where time is just beginning to distort. Time Tornadoes are occurring and these events are stopping time and causing people to disappear. While people and creatures from the "now" disappear, people and creatures from the past reappear. The underlying theme of the story is that time is big business and whoever controls time, controls life as we know it.

It feels like I might have been in one or two of those "time tornadoes" lately. Winterson describes them as a sudden stop. Nothing seems to change for a few minutes and you can't believe time has passed the way it did. Just as there are these sudden stops, people also experience the sudden acceleration of time where the world seems to be whizzing by at incredible rates. Hmm....

We have these strange sayings like "wasting time", "stealing time", "turn back time" and "racing against time". Perhaps the most common one, is to say, "I don't have enough time". We do make time sound like a commodity, something that can be bought, sold and traded.

What would happen if all your clocks and time recording devices suddenly stopped. What if it wasn't just yours, but when you turned on your radio, T.V., or computer to check the time, the clock devices there weren't working either. Where is the magic "time controller" that would reset it all? How have we really come to this agreement on what time it is?

It makes me think of that child's game "what time is it Mr. Wolf". "Mr Wolf" is kind of the bad guy in the game, but he's also the position everyone is striving for. He decides how many steps forward you can take and when. The rest of the players try to advance or sneak up on "Mr. Wolf" without getting caught cheating and taking more steps than Mr. Wolf has agreed to allow. That kind of sounds a bit like life these days. We are rushing around trying to get more things done than ever before within some magical time frame so we won't get caught.

What would happen if no one knew what time it was? I guess we might loose a lot of social order. I think it might be a bit hard to have meetings scheduled. School might be a little chaotic. It would be difficult to travel I guess. But would it?

Has there always been this acute sensitivity to time. Although it would seem we have always "tracked time", and used sun dials to measure time, it has not always been common practice to be so aware of time. Years ago people didn't all wear watches, or have multiple clocks in their house, or have ipods, cell-phones and other devices constantly recording the time. People didn't always wake up to alarm clocks. How did kids get to school on time years ago when they were walking for miles and not waking up to an alarm clock? What if you just called someone when you felt the need to meet instead of setting it up for a particular time? What if a bus or a plane took off when it had enough people ready to go instead of on a set time? Imagine if you got up when you naturally woke up and went to bed when you were tired. Isn't that crazy? Is it????

The strange thing about science fiction is that it has this weird habit of coming true to some extent. Winterson wrote "Tanglewreck" in 2006 and she's talking about quantum computers and "dimension hopping" that are truly based on today's science. A lot of her fictional ideas are based on quantum physics and the idea of multiple dimensions. Something to consider...

Maybe I better go "check the time"....

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