Sunday, December 23, 2007

"time can do so much - are you still mine?" - Unchained Melody

"of course as you're looking in the rear mirror life goes on." - Levent Abi, my driving instructor, reminding me to check the road again

The food arrived. Bose made a valiant effort to retract and start over:
"Just found a new cook myself," he said. "That Sheru kicked the bucket after thirty years of service. The new one is untrained, but he came cheap because of that. I got out the recipe books and read them aloud as he copied it all down in Bengali. 'Look,' I told him, 'keep it basic, nothing fancy. Just learn a brown sauce and a white sauce-shove the bloody white sauce on the fish and shove the bloody brown sauce on the mutton."
But he couldn't manage to keep this up.
He now pleaded directly with the judge: "We're friends, aren't we?"
"Aren't we? Aren't we friends?"
"Time passes, things change," said the judge, feeling claustrophobia and emberrassment.
"But what is in the past remains unchanged, doesn't it?"
"I think it does change. The present changes the past. Looking back you do not find what you left behind, Bose." The Inheritance of Loss, page 207, 208


They are preparing a new room for the antique watches and clocks in the British Museum, and they put them in a temporary room until then. I got to see them last weekend, and I wondered, once again, how people came up with the concept of time, and how to measure it. Once I read somewhere that time is the fourth dimension, but I didn't quite get it. Now I grasp it better - let's say we have a room, with its length, width, depth. But the room is not the same from one second to the next. People enter, leave, relocate objects. The room changes, it moves away from the origin. We have frames following one another, each different from one another, like in a movie.

People must have noticed the change, the movement, and they called it time. The movement of stars, planets, earth, changing of coordinates, not being able to find something where you left it, finding something else. One of the clocks had a mechanism that portrayed exactly that - a small ball rolled along a curvy belt, and when it reached the end of it, it pulled a spring that pulled the wheels and turned them ever so slightly - then the plate with the belt slanted backwards and the ball started rolling again. Apparently it took 30 seconds for the ball to get from one end to the other.

We say it takes a certain time to go a certain distance. The opposite might be true, too - when time passes, people and objects move. We might as well assume that as time goes by, the further away from the origin we can expect to find things.

This doesn't say anything definitive about objects' positions relative to each other, though. The passage of time doesn't necessarily mean we'll travel further and further away. The opposite may also be the case. That only time can tell.

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