Monday, January 01, 2007

Visualising Time

So today's a New Year's day -bright and sunny, after last night's rain and winds. I can stuff last year's diary away in a drawer and officially begin the 2007 one now. Begin at the beginning and work my way through it, page by page, until I reach the bottom of the December 31st 2007 page... eek, that's a long way off, better not think about it now!

Calendars impose such a rigid, linear, grid-like way of visualising time in our lives, at least in an urban context. Diaries and those ugly calendar wall charts in the office all make me think of time as something that starts in the top left corner and gradually works its way downwards until the end, when the next year starts, scientifically separated from the old year by calculations based on a micro-millisecond. (Time-measurement description not scientifically accurate, by the way, it's just indicative...).

Interestingly, the Science Museum, writing about the uses of atomic clocks and timing, says:

"It is not immediately obvious why we need clocks of this accuracy. However, each time the accuracy of timekeeping is improved, a new use is found for it."

So today I'm at the start of a New Year, presumably calculated officially, with atomic accuracy.

But I just end up visualising it in a really mundane calendar-like way. Seems a bit boring when the passing of time and the resulting calendars are based on astronomical changes in the relationship between the earth and moon or sun. Like in the 15th C illustration of 'Dante's Divine Comedy' (above), before atomic clocks existed. That all seems a much nicer, healthier perspective, for some reason, rooting you more obviously in 'nature' or the wider world or universe, rather than a individualistic little grid in a diary....

Which reminds me... I've only got a few days to get lots of work done before next term starts... completely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, but have to keep to my timetable. The office wall chart and my diary both say so.

But maybe there's a New Year's Resolution in there somewhere (if I ever actually made any) about keeping stuff in perspective. How very sensible!

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