Time: Who rules it?

Sep 26, 2022

Time runs on an equation set by the human world. Today it is fundamental to everything – science, calculation, age of mortal and immortal things. It is notional and illusionary reoriented with the logic of ancient civilisations. And it is on this inexplicable wonder the human world runs and changes the calendar.   

The concept of time is the best of all human discoveries. From a new-year celebration to a global positioning system and from e-commerce to planetary missions, everything works on the calculation of time. But the time that we use as a measurement for every activity and calculation of age is only a notion or an illusion – so are all our achievements.

Our calendar turns off the wall every 365 sunrise-sunset. We, the sapiens, have set up another cosy planet on the planet earth. We have tailor-made everything for our convenience. We have never stopped creation over what nature has created for them because our needs are limitless and endless. Recreations and over-creations have crossed only all limits. Our creative works crossed all levels of insanity. Yet, we are in no frame of mind to stop any foul or insanity.

The planet has its time that none can reset or alter. Time has a link with the speed of the earth’s rotation. But we have made watches and set our time for every calculation. Today, time is the foundation of all human activities. But it is an illusion. At the same time, this invisible factor dictates the term of our life. Human beings have lived by timepieces and datebooks ever since the days of the ancient Egyptians.

Here there is a space for many questions. Isn’t it the right time for us to understand the physics of the planet? We know the earth revolves around the sun. We measure it with a unit of time that we have set for our measurement. We have made the time to monitor our movements and place our interests. The internet world and all business transactions on the digital platform run on the time that we have set and fed our computer with.

Initially, time was different at different zones. For centuries human beings lived by how Egyptians divided the daytime for calculation of time length. Before the emergence of a standard measurable unit of time, many equations fed the time calculating devices over centuries. Later country-wise time came up. The Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) regulates global time. The New Year comes to Howland Island in the US almost a day after the Line Islands and Tonga. We look at the UTC for setting our time. It is different from one place to another. In primitive times our ancestors used to look at the sky to understand sunrise, sunset, and noon.

Life is impossible if we don’t move by time because the modern world and its economy are built on the concept of time. In the modern world, the past is a lesson to live by the present and calculate about the future. We calculate our age by time. We use second, minute, day, week, month and year to count our activities and age. A life without counting any of these is unimaginable – as unimaginable as a child getting admission to school without a birth certificate. Our ancestors never had it or the ancient days never demanded that. Our epics and ballads used “once upon a time” or “there was a time” to mark the time of the character in the story.

The concept of time has so deeply ingrained in us that we cannot make out that it is man-made miracle that led to the creation of everything inorganic and artificial. The arithmetic of time controls the human world in which the modern homo sapiens are trapped inescapably. We try to discipline ourselves to live by the time and within the time. Without the calculation of time earth cannot be a globe for human life.

Until some decades ago, many Indian villages had no time clock. But they lived a quality life, maybe better than what they have today. Their good life was attributable to the energy they could draw from nature at the right time during the night and day. They were never wrong with their calculation of “udayastamayam” (sunrise and sunset). They used to start their day with the sunrise and go to rest at sunset. They had their perfect time for breakfast, lunch and dinner without depending on a timepiece.

Months are calculated with Amavasya and Pournami. Depending on nature’s movement for calculating their time, they never used to fail. They had enough knowledge of the climate cycle. They knew the change of time from the flowering of plants and the ripening of fruits. Accordingly, they plan their agricultural activities like seeding, replanting, fertilizing and harvesting. They used to adhere to the wisdom of nature to calculate time. Their calculation was infallible as they followed the lunisolar calendar.

Our ancestors never bothered about the calendar date of their birth. They never used to celebrate that day, because many of them hardly remembered it. Those who remembered marked it as per the astronomical almanac.

The root of the first calendar is traced back to Neolithic time. However, there was no calendar in material form until the bronze era around BC 3100. Sumerians in Mesopotamia had their calendar with 12 months and 29-30 days. On the other hand, Scottish historians believed that hunter-gatherers used to have their calculation of counting times and days looking by looking at the sky. People during the pre-modern era had better wisdom in calculating the time cycle. In ancient India, scholars and astronomers had their prudent ways to calculate the passage of time. The Vedas, primitive scriptures and epics talked about the passage of time and days 1200 BCE.

Many centuries later, the Gregorian calendar dominated our period calculation, parents started noting their children’s birth date, thanks to British rule. The Gregorian calendar came into place in 1582 AD. Before that, the Europeans used the Julian calendar. We calculated our age based on the Gregorian calendar. Today, one has to have a chronology of life to be eligible for professional education and a job. The modern-day calendar has become the judge of our age. Biological age has lost its relevance. Our ancestors never worried about their life span. It is the concern of people of the modern era.

The latecomer Gregorian calendar within centuries dominated human interest. That has become an unavoidable part of our daily life. All other systems of calendaring became irrelevant. Many local systems and conventions became extinct. The unification of the world under a standard calendar suppressed the way of life followed by ancient and medieval ethnic groups. It dismantled many rich human cultures. That is a tragic turning point in the history of human civilization.

Time has become a crucial aspect in modern life and the study of science and the economy. Scientists used time machines to travel back to ancient India, where sages had used aviation to travel. Britain wanted to mark milestones of time in its history.

Many religions have taken ownership of time. They believed God created time, and humans discovered it. More than 15 centuries passed by the time the modern calendar came up. It back-dated the years to begin the counting of the era. The calendar has marked only too short a period of human history, leaving many centuries for a guess. Yet, it could invade the entire human world. Today we have a fixed time for everything. Yet, we are running behind it. We run like marathon runners while time controls us. Like every other innovation, the human embracement of calendar time also has overrun every sphere of our life.