Time is Always Running Away

WRITTEN BY : Yomi Makanjuola

The 1964 cover version of the song Time Is On My Side by The Rolling Stones was memorable for its defiant rendition of the refrain “yes, it is!” Back then, who could have predicted that the band’s frontmen, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, will be alive today and still be performing, subject to a pacemaker or two? Ostensibly, it is unwise to judge a song – or singer – by its cover!

Is time an illusion? A youthful 20-year old Jagger might well have envisioned an endless stream of 20,000-plus hedonistic days ahead of him, whereas a crusty 75-year old Sir Mick, now counting down the years, must surely realise that time was no longer on his side. Whichever way you dice it, mortality is a brutal reality that limits the human life span to six score years or less.

Beyond our primordial perception of time, its measurement by instrumentation has evolved over several millennia. But since the Age of Enlightenment, two near-immortal physicists – Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein – respectively, promoted a mathematical construction of time, and a more rigorous method of synchronising clocks relative to the speed of light. Because we are earthbound in a three-dimensional configuration, the scientific idea of space-time further illuminated theabstract concept of time, based on the spatial reference frame of the observer. Time’s relentless little trick is to move us – in the blink of an eye – from a known space to an unknown territory. Try to navigate that!

However, to a layperson or gruff rocker, time is expressed more simply in the changing of the seasons, in the movement of the Sun and the Moon, but most visibly in the workings of a clock and a calendar.

So, what explains our obsession with time?

Simply put, all our thoughts and actions are delimited by time, which we can neither tame nor fully comprehend. Sometimes, the passage of time mimics a captive passenger on a high-speed train journeying to an unknown destination. But a more subdued objective reality correlates with our individual perception of the past, the present and the future.

The past embodies our achievements, failures, dashed dreams, and regrets. Also, we are a product of our antecedents, traditions and history, which represent a window into gaining an understanding of what worked in the past, and what to avoid going forward. Nevertheless, the past is not always a useful predictor since extrapolations into the future can result in statis or, worse, diminishing returns. 

The present allows us to take stock of the past and to re-imagine the future. It provides an opportunity to take personal responsibility, to recalibrate and set audacious goals. Despite internal and external constraints, the present can inspire us to aim high, to make intelligent trade-offs and to seek the greatest value within our domain.

The future is full of potential and signifies an open book that is yet to be written. Having set goals, the effectiveness of our efforts or productivity prompts us to determine the efficiency of our portfolio of value-adding activities. Unlike machines, we have the uncanny ability to make micro-adjustments on the fly and to self-correct our actions in the pursuit of higher ideals.

Implicitly, the axiom Time is Money signals an economic motive, and also recognises the fact that time is a form of currency. This opens up the whole vista of effective time management and why we should not undervalue this precious resource. Put another way, we all need to explore how best to maximise the return on our time investment, in order to leave the world better than we met it.

Even as time shows us all a clean pair of heels, this blog will revisit and deconstruct a dogged and indispensable currency that never stops giving, from here to eternity.  

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