Jewish Journal


December 28, 2012

On the Passage of Time



Sunrise. Photo credit:
Wikimedia Commons

The sun will come up tomorrow.
– Little Orphan Annie

But in a trillion tomorrows the sun will become
a red giant and extinguish all life on earth.
– astronomers

If you’re reading this, you’ve completed another loop around the sun. Congratulations.

Marking space is easy. Walls, fences, lane dividers, buoys, flags, are all ways of communicating that the space over there is different than this space over here. Marking time is harder. We need holidays, calendars, events to remember that what comes after is different than what came before. While we can revisit places, we can’t revisit times.

So as the rightmost digit on the calendar is about to be incremented, it’s a good time to reflect on the successes and the setbacks of 2012 and to make realistic goals for 2013. The only thing about 2013 about which I am certain is that we’ll only get to do it once.

I wish us all a prosperous, healthy, and joyous 2013!

Learn more about time:

Dave Brubeck, one of the greatest Jazz composers ever, died in 2012. Here is a link to his best known song, from the album Time Out, which was a collection of experiments with different time signatures.
Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five (5 minutes)

How is it that the past is so different from the future? Why can we remember 2012 but not 2013 (at least yet)? Why can’t you uncook an egg or unburn a match? Those with a background in science know that the answer relates to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I’ve seen no better discussion of this fascinating question targeted to a general audience than the following lecture by Richard Feynman.
Richard Feynman – The Character of Physical Law -Lecture 5 -The Distinction of Past and Future (46 min)

Lucius Annaeus Seneca: On the Shortness of Life

Important legal mumbo jumbo:
Anything you read on the web should be used to supplement, not replace, your doctor’s advice.  Anything that I write is no exception.  I’m a doctor, but I’m not your doctor.

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