TIME notes

“Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in an apparently irreversible succession from the past, through the present, into the future.[1][2][3] (Wikipedia)

TIME is first and almost always experienced by us according to our perceptual apparatus.  AND TIME is thus understood at our level of organization as organisms. BUT we now know that there are other levels that range from difficult ti impossible to conceptualize.  (see Carlo Rovelli’s lecture at the Royal Institute, “The Physics and Philosophy of Time“) 


SWADDLED in PARADOX and PLATITUDE   (as when–like the moon–our reach exceeds our grasp).  We make assumptions based on our experience that phenomena have beginnings and endings. (And, of course, these assumptions continue into areas of which we have no experience.–read about extrapolation and filling-in in notes on bias.). Our urges to control our environments engenders an often passionate desire to understand the processes and the possible ways in which we may adjust them in our favor. 

AND, our “need to know” extends even to the unknowable (or is it?). We are haunted by desires to know and thus possibly control the beginning and ending of our own lives, then perhaps life itself, and the universe and all that appears to exist to us.  (At the same time, acknowledging that the vast preponderance of phenomena is–at least at present–utterly unknown and possibly unknowable: dark time, dark matter, the “hard question” of consciousness…). 

As TS Eliot wrote, “We shall not cease from exploration” and he apparently suspected that “…the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”  (Little Gidding, 1943).   Circularity appeals (see Enso).



“The concept of time has no meaning before the beginning of the universe,” Stephen Hawking wrote in his groundbreaking 1988 book A Brief History of Time (public library) — a work of such far-reaching and lasting impact that it awakened the popular imagination to the fundamental physics of reality and, thirty years later, inspired one of the most beautiful and poignant poems of all time.

In the foreword to the final edition of the book published in his lifetime, Hawking quoted Richard Feynman’s exultation at how fortunate we are to live in an age when we are still discovering the fundamental laws of nature. Inevitably, this means we are still understanding the nature of time. As we come closer and closer to accepting that the universe might be not infinite but finite, and that Einstein’s relativity, as revolutionary as it was, has important limitations, the notion that time began at the Big Bang singularity has begun to dissolve into something more complex — and more thrilling: We might say that in the beginning of time, there was no time; but we might equally say that in the beginning of time, there was only time. (Borges touched the poetic truth behind and before the scientific fact in his exquisite refutation of time.)” (from Brain Pickings: When Did Time Really Belong)



Dennis Overby, reviewing Brian Greene’s book on time, relates how “In a virtuosic final section [he] describes [the passage of time] … by inviting us to climb an allegorical Empire State Building; on each floor the universe is 10 times older. If the first floor is Year 10, we now are just above the 10th (10 billion years). By the time we get to the 11th floor the sun will be gone and with it probably any life on Earth. As we climb higher we are exposed to expanses of time that make the current age of the universe look like less than the blink of an eye. 

“Eventually the Milky Way galaxy will fall into a black hole. On about the 38th floor of the future, when the universe is 100 trillion trillion trillion years old, protons, the building blocks of atoms, will dissolve out from under us, leaving space populated by a thin haze of lightweight electrons and a spittle of radiation.

In the far, far, far, far future, even holding a thought will require more energy than will be available in the vastly dissipated universe. It will be an empty and cold place that doesn’t remember us. “Nabokov’s description of a human life as a ‘brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness’ may apply to the phenomenon of life itself,” Greene writes.”


(EXCERPT from UNTIL THE END OF TIME …. Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe  By Brian Greene) 



·        HUMANS exist at the organismic level of organization … but does time differ in the minds of different humans? perhaps in accord with its everyday meaning in their context?

  • The Artist’s TIME?   “How is composing music of a given meter similar to painting flowing water? In this conversation between the composer and musician Philip Glass and the painter Fredericka Foster, two artists set out to tackle this question, before flowing into questions of memory, physics, and death.”

“I become a verb, seeing, painting. That time cannot be measured. With this kind of focused attention, time has no boundaries. That’s the kind of time you find in love, in creativity, in the life of the spirit, the kind of time I live for.”Fredericka  Foster

“So when we talk about timelessness, what are we talking about? Are we saying we have no way of measuring time? Are we measuring the shadow of time? The shadow of a person is certainly not the person.”—Philip Glass

 Read: The-larger-the-theater-the-faster-the-music


  • Is creative flow simply activation of medial prefrontal cortex (encouraging the internal generation of ideas) with simultaneous deactivation of the lateral prefrontal cortex (discouraging focus)? 


“[Is] only the present comprehended?” Patti Smith asked in her marvelous meditation on time and transformation. Generations earlier, at the same moment in history when Virginia Woolf was busy contemplating the elasticity of time and Einstein and Gödel were redefining our understanding of itT.S. Eliot (September 26, 1888–January 4, 1965) — another supreme poet for the ages — penned what remains the most beautiful ode to the nature of time: Burnt Norton, the first of his epic Four Quartets, eventually included in his Collected Poems (public library).” Read Maria Popova’s elegant blog entry on “The stillpoint of the Turning World.”


FLOW raises the issue of QUALITATIVE time: Kairos  – in resonance with the transformative “Teachable Moment”–“AHA!” in the classroom.  a PERFECT STORM: a SYNERGY of CIRCUMSTANCES that enables TRANSFORMATIVE LEARNING, an EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCE.  In a student as in an artist, when mere knowledge becomes realizing. 







This is the right time, and this is the right thing.
– Sir Thomas Moore

“Kairos” is an ancient rhetorical concept that has gained importance in different disciplines over the centuries. It refers to knowing what is most appropriate in a given situation; for our purposes, let’s think of it as saying (or writing) the right thing at the right time.

Appeals to kairos in written form try to make use of the particular moment—attempting to capture in words what will be immediately applicable, appropriate, and engaging for a particular audience. Kairos is timeliness, appropriateness, decorum, symmetry, balance—awareness of the rhetorical situation or “the circumstances that open moments of opportunity” (Kinneavy; Sipiora; Vatz; Bitzer; Hill 217). Kairos is crafting serendipity, like when the sun comes out at the end of a romantic comedy after all the conflicts have been resolved.

In Greek, both kairos and chronos literally mean “time,” but kairos does not mean “time” in the same sense as used in contemporary English. In Greek, kairos represents a kind of “qualitative” time, as in “the right time”; chronos represents a different kind of “quantitative” time, as in, “What time is it?” and “Will we have enough time?” (Kinneavy; Stephenson). Kairos means taking advantage of or even creating a perfect moment to deliver a particular message.

  • Consider, for example, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The speech was rhetorically powerful: it changed minds, persuaded people to support the civil rights movement, and served as a powerful rallying cry for a generation of reformers. But the speech was so powerful in part because of its kairotic moment: the timing and atmosphere of the speech lent themselves to powerful oratory. Together, the “where” (the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.), the “why” (the culmination of a march on Washington by thousands of members of the civil rights movement), and the “when” (during the centennial celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation, at a time of day when broadcast networks could carry the speech live, and during a march which had drawn more than 250,000 people to the capital) created the perfect moment for King’s message to reach the largest number of receptive listeners.”   [more]



Kairosclerosis is a term from Koenig’s Dictionary of Obsure Sorrows that describes the balance of the ephemeral and eternal in a unique experience. 

  • “The moment you realize that you’re currently happy—consciously trying to savor the feeling—which prompts your intellect to identify it, pick it apart and put it in context, where it will slowly dissolve until it’s little more than an aftertaste.”
  • Koenig explains further: “Kairosclerosis is from the Greek: kairos, “the opportune moment” + sclerosis, “hardening.” The Ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. Chronos is quantitative and linear—the ticking of the Western clock. Kairos is more qualitative, referring to moments that are indeterminate and sublime, when something special happens, when god speaks or the wind shifts, when a door is left open between one minute and the next. 

[i]  see: Kate Pantelides, Megan McIntyre, and Jessica McKee  Category: Rhetorical Appeals | Published: 16 April 2012 | Last Updated: 11 January 2018

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,….

Read In a Dark Time by Theodore Roethke