On Time

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I’ve seen in various places the information that people kept away from the sunlight world and clocks will operate on a 25-hour cycle, instead of the 24 hours of the earth’s rotation to which we think we are accustomed.

Clock989I notice that the moon circles the earth on approximately a 25-hour cycle.   Is this a coincidence? That seems likely.  The moon is on its own path, against the earth’s turning.

Could it be that the earth once rotated on a 25-hour cycle?  At some time, very long ago, but after the creation of basic life forms which later evolved into our DNA, some cosmic event bumped up the earth’s rate of rotation to the present 24 hours.

I like this theory because it would make the following statement true:

“There aren’t enough hours in the day.”

I find myself thinking that thought far too often.  Are we being cheated out of one of the twenty-five hours in the original circadian rhythm for which we were designed?

Has anyone researched this matter?

Clocks and Time

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The Bridge Outside Paley's Door

The Bridge Outside Paley’s Door





In honor of the clock change, here is one of my poems about time and clocks from Made and Remade.


The Potentate of Time

As CEO, I cannot allow loss
of minutes dropped by badly
calibrated clocks, seconds

split by timers racing after
ever faster miles, or precious
nanoseconds sliced, spit out

by precision machines: all
the clumsy human attempts
to alter time.

I dispatch work crews to
sweep corners and gutters, sift
bits from curbs and drains,

bring their gathered goods into
my laboratory where skilled
artisans sort, stitch, splice.  My

expanding universe requires
recovery, repair, reuse
of every particle.

The title comes from a line in a hymn “Crown him the Lord of years, the potentate of time.”  It’s a phrase I’ve been fond of for a long time.  In spite of the source I picture this powerful figure as female.  I don’t know if this is because this cleaning up is a kind of woman’s work, or if it is a form of identification between poet and persona.  I intentionally hid my perspective by putting the poem in the first person.  How do you imagine this figure?

Drive carefully on Monday morning.  It’s a high accident time because so many people are thrown off and sleep deprived by the time change

Chronophobia: Fear at the Equinox


Time always seems to be an issue at the fall equinox.  The shortening daylight gives a feeling of shorter hours, while the activities that resume in the fall take up more of those hours.  The tasks put off during hot weather have also accumulated.  There is one plus to this season: being up before the sun to see the dawn color.

September Sunrise

September Sunrise


The rest of the day time seems to run and leap, trampling the to-do list.  I may even suffer an attack of Chronophobia:

I’m on the monster’s back and I don’t dare get off.  Time is the enemy, a threat to all my projects.  Of hours in the day or days in the week there are never enough to keep up with all my chosen tasks: the writing, the meetings, the email, the sewing, the gardening.

Some weeks I wonder if I should even be spending Sunday morning at church.  I hear time growling, licking his lips.  Martin Luther said, “I have so much to do today that I must spend a long time in prayer.”  How could this be, I wondered.  Then I discovered the secret.  When I stop, really completely stop―not just sit down with a book, not just make a cup of coffee―when I really come to a full stop, time stops too.

It doesn’t last long.  As soon as I begin to move again, I have to get back up on the monster’s back and race toward the next task, the next deadline, the next chime of the hour. If I slip off I may be eaten.  This is Chronos, after all: the old god who eats his children.

Thanks to Ina Hughs, at last year’s October Writing Festival at Ghost Ranch, for her “sheet of fears” exercise.

New Year’s Optimism – in 1893

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94933_CoverFront1893 was a bad year for the American economy.  The country would not recover from the financial disaster of that year for several years to come.  John Emerson Roberts, preacher of All Souls’ church in Kansas City, was personally affected.  The Board of Trustees of the church reduced his salary by twenty percent, “in hopes that it could be more promptly paid.”

New Year’s Eve, the last day of 1893, was a Sunday.  Perhaps it was a preacher’s instinct for what his congregation wanted to hear that led Dr. Roberts to avoid all mention of current ills and give a sermon which took great leaps into abstractions.  Though the lecture was titled “The days that are gone and the days that are to be” Roberts gave very little attention to the days that are gone.  He began:

This is the day and the hour when by common impulse we pay our homage to time, the warder at the gates of destiny.  Time!  Within that monosyllable what mystery is enshrined; what depth unfathomable, invisible, echoless, vast.

Like God, within it all things live and move and have their being.  But whence is it and what?  Is it an existence, an entity, a fact, a something: and if so what are its parts, its elements?

There are many things which we cannot comprehend, but we define them and with our definition we mask our ignorance and put on airs . . . Our age hastens to be wise.  Restless of mystery, impatient of knowledge, it has cruelly invaded the chaste and tender secrets of the olden time, and now has cold formulas and colorless explanations for everything.

He soon moved from this negative note to flights of positive oratory.

We cannot get rid of God. . . . . To eyes that see, no fact should be plainer than this – that nature is everywhere a manifestation of the Infinite; that all things that are, all things everywhere; show forth . . .  that the supreme fact of the universe is God.

Why have we not found this out?  Why do you sit there and wonder what the preacher means?  Because we have inherited the false notion that nature is exclusive of God, that He can be present only through supernatural means.

We must know God, if at all, in terms of the finite.

Let us ask, what is time?  It is the revelation of eternity in terms comprehensible by man. . . . Time is but the world’s manifestation of God’s eternity.

Roberts concluded:

Marvelous mighty, unspeakable gifts of days!  To make them constellations wheel in space, galaxies keep their silent watches, moons wax and wane, stars come out; suns rise and set, and then, as if to call unthinking men to marvel, the wonderful dawn hangs its crimson drapery, the triumphal gate through which the day is ushered in.

This ministry, this service, this joyous slavery of the universe, this striding of the constellations around the pole, this eternal and tender conspiracy of worlds and galaxies and systems; this birth from eternal mystery of morning and of night – this, oh, human soul is for thee!

Ah. coming days! The days that are to be!  Let me with thee conspire to make time and life divine.  Then shall we greet each morning with a smile and meet all the future with a cry of joy!

Did this idea that the universe goes through its cycle for the sake of humanity comfort the financiers, business owners and other civic leaders who attended Roberts’s church that Sunday, who may have been badly hurt by the financial crisis?  According to the report in Monday’s paper, it pleased them greatly: “This sermon was one of the most eloquent Dr. Roberts has delivered during his pastorate, and at the close he was warmly congratulated by many of the large congregation which listened with closest attention throughout.”

Further evidence that Roberts pleased his audience came a few months later.  In 1894 Roberts received an unusual honor from the larger community.  He won a contest sponsored by the Kansas CityWorld in which readers were asked to vote for the most popular minister in the city.  The prize was substantial: a horse and phaeton.  For Dr. Roberts, things were looking up.  He had many years of positive influence and appreciation ahead of him.

For more on John Emerson Roberts, read John Emerson Roberts: Kansas City’s “Up-to-date” Freethought Preacher.  You can find it on Amazon or order directly from the author.

Parley of Instruments: A Tale


“I’m feeling off, and achy,” complains the watch as his band stretches around the boy’s hand.  “I’ve been reset so often my knob’s worn down.”

“My time is right,” the clock on the stove calls out.

“So is mine,” the clock on the radio mutters.

“B-bong, b-bong,” the windup clock on the wall begins to chime the hour.

“You’re two minutes early,” stove clock declares.

“Close enough.  I don’t run on current like you.”

“At least we agree,” stove clock assures radio clock.

“Of course!  We run on the same power!”

“You’re grumpy this morning, radio clock,” wall clock says.

“Stove clock’s acting like she’s in charge – again.”

The boy looks at his watch, which is running five minutes slow.  “I’ve still got five minutes,” he says to himself.

“You’re reading the wrong timepiece!” the others cry together, but to the boy they are as silent as the lights flashing at the school crossing, where five minutes is enough to mark him tardy.

“He didn’t look at any of us,” stove clock sighs as the door closes.


This little story was a side trip in my journey with William Paley’s Natural Theology.  The image of the watch which opens Paley’s argument is so strong that it took me a while to realize that Paley is not really interested in what watches do, that is, tell time.  He is interested in the watch as a mechanism which must have had a designer.  It is a parallel to the eye, ear, and all the other parts of the body which, it is his project to demonstrate, must have been designed.  Paley’s world view is a topic for another time,. as is our contemporary bondage to clocks and the minutes they represent.