35-5. Measure of time
The time measure we use in our daily lives (hours, years, etc) is depicted by the line h-i, i.e. that part of the line a-c which relates to us on our globe (cf. Gen.1:14,15). For an astronaut in his spaceship, or for a dweller on Mars or Venus - if there should be one - it would be different, not only since the days and years of the other planets are different timewise, but because the underlying forces and their combinations there, and consequently their effects, are different from those on our globe.
For the daily needs on our globe, our calculation (measurement) of time is based upon the following movements:
a) the earth's rotation. One revolution of the globe gives us the concept of one day (day and night together, that is, irrespective of longer and shorter periods of daylight in accordance with the seasons). The subdivision of a day into 24 hours (with 24 x 60 = 1440 minutes, or 1440 x 60 = 86400 seconds) is arbitrary, agreed upon for our conveniences. It derives from the sexagenary system developed by the Babylonians. As it is somewhat abstract, peoples in ancient times applied also other systems. For instance, the night was not subdivided into 12 hours but into 4 night watches. Before the invention of clocks, the watchman had to announce the times. Another example would be the duration of one inhale/exhale cycle of a man in rest which served as a measurement for smaller time units - it came up to approximately three and a half seconds.
b) the earth's orbit. A year is the time span our globe needs for one orbit. Our calendars render this time span as 365 days since the globe revolves approximately 365 times during one orbit. The western calendar balances the difference between orbit and rotation by introducing every 4 years a leap year with an additional day, the 29th of February.
When we say about someone that he is 60 years old, for example, we might say as well that he took part in 60 of the earth's orbits. However, such a saying would concentrate on the orbits and neglect many other forces which effect us during that period, too (as e.g. chemical, biological, spiritual forces). In fact, even for two people born at the very same minute, the 60 orbits or years have different meanings for each of them.
c) the earth's tilting. It makes up for the four seasons, with the equinoxes every 21.3. and 21.9. Perhaps Gen. 8:22 contains a hint that this tilting came about only after the Flood (it reads there: "summer and winter ... shall not cease...").
d) The waxing and the waning of the moon. The time span between one new moon and the next gave men the concept of one month. The earth rotates approximately 354 times during 12 moon months.
Most of the ancient cultures conceived the moon cycle as more important than the sun cycle, and consequently based their calendars upon the former. Islam whose followers comprise approximately 1/4 of the globe's population, follows the moon calendar. Because the moon year is shorter than the sun year, non-Muslim observers see the famous month of Ramadan (the month of fast) "wandering backwards" through the sun calendar, while the Muslim may look at the western calendar as "moving ahead" in comparison to the moon calendar he is accustomed to. Islam which originated in the hot desert of Saudi Arabia, inherited from ancient Babylon the moon calendar, obviously because the moon which governs the relatively cool nights is felt by the desert peoples as more beneficial than the burning sun. Besides, due to the climatic and geographical conditions there, they engage foremost in shepherding and trade, and not so much in agriculture which cannot be geared to the moon cycles only.
Focusing on the moon allows also for the concept that man should be like this heavenly body which reflects the light of the sun in purity. If man has waned for one reason or the other, he should, like the moon, always be ready to wax again in the light of the Divine.
The different calendars are not random choices. What we call western calendar, is in fact a northern calendar, i.e. it was developed and adopted by northern peoples who felt strongly the benefit of the light and the warmth of the sun. Moreover, the sun calendar allows for easier calculations of interest rates, salaries, etc: it is trimmed to the needs of industry and trade. Adhering to these needs, Christianity since the days of Emperor Constantine adapted to the sun calendar and conveniently depicts its founder as the sun of the universe. By doing so, it justified the continuation of observing the ancient pagan Sunday as day of worship.
In contrast, for ancient agricultural societies the moon cycles were of paramount importance as they give the times for seasonal sowings and plantings. It is for this reason that the festivals, most of them with an agricultural aspect, are tied to the moon (new moon or full moon).
Israel, located between north and south, and between desert and civilization, developed already in ancient times a combined sun-moon calendar (based upon Gen. 1:14-16 where we are told that both the big and the small light, i.e. sun and moon, shall be unto us for signs and seasons and days). In order to synchronize the moon and the sun cycles, the Hebrew calendar introduces seven leap years with a 13th moon month into each cycle of 19 sun years.
Everyone of these three calendars starts counting with a certain event: The Muslim's calendar commences with the Hejira, the day of Muhammed's escape from Mecca to Medinah; Christians count their calendar from the birth of Jesus; while the Jewish calendar begins with Adam, the father of all mankind (Gen. 5:1).
Other calendars base upon different observations and calculations. For instance, the ancient Persians tied their calendar to Sirius. Mathematically it was more accurate than the sun calendar, but it was also more abstract, and this may be a main reason why the cultures based on it did not prevail. - The Essenes of 2000 years ago tried to invent a more schematic calendar which, however, is not yet fully understood. - Modern physics invented for its needs a very precise atom clock, completely independent of the heavenly bodies and their movements. - Hypothetically, we could conjecture many other devices for measurement of time. For instance, the inhale-exhale cycle of a sleeping man served in ancient times as a time gauge, as mentioned already. Or, we could use the duration of a certain chemical process (as e.g. dissolving an iron ball of 1 c.c. in a given acid) as base for a time unit, and could build timepieces (watches) accordingly. While measurements taken from our bodies and its functions (as e.g. inhale-exhale cycle; cubit; foot; etc) differ from people to people and are not accurate enough for our modern needs, atomic or chemical processes, as accurate as they may be, have no tangible bearings in our daily lives, and do not match our sense of time. They have their own times, independent of the time we relate to.
e) This brief excursion into different calendars and other devices for measurement of time may demonstrate:
aa) time is not something independent, on its own. It is related to movements which are but changes of positions (not necessarily mechanical positions), and which have their bearings on us;
bb) our time concept, although based upon nature events, is very subjective, suiting best the daily needs of the respective individuals or groups. This holds true in view of the different calendars, but within them also in view of specific affairs.
An example may demonstrate this point: A venerable car factory, on occasion of clearing its yards, finds in 1991 in a corner a car built in 1928. After supplying it with a new battery and new tires, it works properly. In 1992 they manage to sell it as a unique piece, and the new owner applies for the license which he gets finally in 1994. He decides to exhibit it as a curiosity, and brings it only in 1995 on the road, brand new. How old is the car? Of course, its technical standard is that of 1928, i.e. in 1995 it is 67 years old, but according to the time of usage it is one year old. It is for this reason that we look in such cases at the wear and tear (mileage) not less than at the year of manufacture. That means to say we take different time bound impacts on the car into consideration.
f) In our context of measuring time, it might be of interest to ponder also on the question whether, and/or how, we would feel a change in the velocity of the globe's movements (rotation, orbit), if we had no clocks nor any other time piece which would show us the deviation from the present velocity? Suppose, the globe would slow down its rotation rate from 24 hours to, say, 30 hours of our present time concept. How would we notice it? Probably not immediately. Only within some length of time would we notice climatic changes, and would feel some unease, or disturbance, in our metabolisms which are attuned to the (present) 24 hours day. Provided the changes were not too severe, we would need some while to adjust to the new situation.
We may muse also about the question what kind of time concept we would have developed if our globe would have several moons (like Jupiter) instead of the one we know; or if our globe would orbit around a double sun (like Sirius)?
These hypothetical examples may show how much we made ourselves dependant on our clocks, even to such a degree that more often than not we delude ourselves by "thinking" the universe is geared to them.
g) We saw that time concepts are subjective, pertaining to our needs. Measurements which give these concepts their scientific touch, are worked out in the left brain which then translates it back to our consciousness. In our modern western world this leads to an over-emphasize of left brain attitudes. Children whose left brain is not functioning fully yet, have hardly any concept of measured time. Growing up into the world of the adults, they have to be trained to go by the clock. As our two brains, the right and the left, are anatomically balanced, our usage of their capacities --the analytical and the intuitional one-- should be balanced as well. Our graph which expresses many symbolic meanings, can serve as a symbol for such a balance, too.