Grand Canyon - Some Thoughts on Time (and Space) Part 2

September 20, 2016 Posted by: George Jacobi
view inside of John Wesley Powell's pocket watch showing regulator.

To be alive is to feel and to know – both. But though we can survive not knowing things, we can't go for long without feelings. Indeed, the case has been made that to feel is the reason for human existence.

Back to time. Perhaps religion replaces our inability to feel great time. This doesn't invalidate God, it just means that Judeo-Christianity exchanges insignificance for the comfort of eternal life as spirit; Buddhism with the comfort of not just our body but our spirit going on as a part of everything. Eternity, in religion, means infinite time; in philosophy, eternity is that which is independent of time.

Time, I think, is a real thing, not a mirage created by the human mind. You tell time by motion, the motion of space, of the universe. One of my own favorite mirages is this – before dawn, Orion, laying on his right side, is using his left arm to push the night away to the west so the day can begin. Never mind the Archer. Metaphor increases my enjoyment of celestial motion.

We are rich in metaphors of time, all based on how our emotions change our perception. Feelings, of course, are far more vivid than intellectual comprehension. Time flies. Time is a river. Time in a bottle. Can I go back in time, change my mistakes?

"Oh, the Water, washed my trail away,
Oh, can I take back, the bad deeds that I've done today" ©G. Jacobi 1974

Can I stop time when life seems perfect? Time stops at personal tragedy and we are frozen in pain.

"Most of the time, I don't even remember what her lips felt like on mine. MOST of the time…" –Bob Dylan

We dream of better sci-fi futures, in which the human race has somehow survived and expanded, gotten past the looming disasters of the present.

It's no surprise we can't get it. Try John McPhee:

"Consider the Earth's history as an old measure of the English yard, the distance from the King's nose to the tip of his outstretched hand. One stroke of a nail file on his middle finger erases human history".

Doesn't quite help - might as well go to Groucho Marx:

"Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana".

We measure our lives with time – why must we do that? Why can't we just accept each day as new? We are all caught between the past and the future, struggling to be here today. Mt. Everest climbers talk about how they come face to face with the implacability of nature – it doesn't care if they live or die. The most implacable part, though, must be the inexorable passage of time.

Time is a backpack in which we store the dreams and regrets we insist on carrying around with us. Can a walk in today's deep, timeless beauty help comfort us in our inadequacy? Seems to work for me. Just keep on hiking - it'll be an awesome sunset tonight.

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This blog is meant to encourage awareness and thoughtfulness about the Grand Canyon, one of our most precious resources. It is not merely a story of what happens or has happened here, not a cookbook for what you should make of it yourself, but more an example of the many-faceted inspiration the Canyon nurtures in an artist, perhaps in you. Indeed, inspiration may be the Canyon's greatest resource. These words are sincere, my own take on this world, deliberately non-academic and directed toward users of social media. In no way does it represent the policies or opinions of the National Park Service, although it is done under the auspices of that entity, but is offered in gratitude, with my respect and admiration for these soldiers of conservation. George H. Jacobi 2016

Last updated: September 23, 2016

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