I keep a fossil on my desk at all times. Whenever I feel rushed or find myself creating a sense of urgency, I pick up fossil and caress its polished surface. Itís over 200 million years old. Suddenly, returning that phone call or meeting that self-imposed deadline doesnít seem nearly as critical. My ancient arthropod reminds me that, in scheme of things, this moment is indescribably insignificant. I find that remarkably comforting.
True story: I brought fossil with me as a sort of visual aid for a presentation I was giving on sustainability at Intel. As I opened car door in Intel parking lot, fossil slipped out of my bag. It crashed to pavement, asphalt shattering tip of my favorite piece of history. Iím trying hard to avoid seeing any deep meaning in that disturbing little incident.
Anyway, Iíve been stroking that poor broken fossil a lot this week. Iím not freaking out about anything. Iíve just been spending some time thinking about time.
Is life a function of time, or is time a function of life?
This is worth spending a considerable amount of time (or life?) contemplating. For those of you in a hurry, Iíve got this short sound byte answer: It depends on what kind of scope youíre using.
My brother has worked for a nearby scope manufacturer for over twenty years, so my answer is colored by my familiarity with lenses and way they magnify reality. You might come up with a response based on, say, your connection to compost. Or combustion engines. Or maybe blood cells. Me? Iím going with scopes.
I would say that time is a function of life whenever we are simply going through motions of day or looking at our accomplishments or failures over course of our lives. We can divide periods of living into convenient packagesóthat wondrous year in Miss Greenís first grade class, bust-your-butt blur of college, home-as-preschool phase, years in old house on Birch Street, and on and on. We use time. It allows us to keep things organized, both in our day planners and in our minds. Itís a helpful ordering mechanism.
Itís hard to get a grip on enormity of time when we view it in appointments, lunch hours, and television time-slots. If we pull waaayyy back and look at it, then life becomes a function of time instead of other way around.
We donít tend to pay attention to any of that while getting ready for work in morning. We donít look at Time with a capital T. Thatís because weíre looking through lens of microscope. Well, haul out telescope. Take a look at gigantic periods of time. Consider unfathomable chunks of eternity.
Weíve been in Cenozoic era for about 65 million years now. It started way back with extinction of last non-avian dinosaurs. The most recent Cenozoic period, Quarternary, started a mere 1.8 million years ago, and has seen development of humans from very earliest use of tools and rudimentary language to present flip-phone/camera/email devices that are all rage today. Thatís quite a progression.