Swatting Time Flies: A Clock's Hands Hide Its Face

The rare vending machine’ll take half-dollars. None accept half-hours. There are time-saving devices. No bank offers a time-savings account. Some projects are big time investments but men never compare time investment portfolios.

Time isn’t money.

If time were money, fathers who “make time” for their daughters would be jailed for minute forgery. Workers would be paid in overtime. Men living on borrowed time would refinance the rate of their chrono-loans.

What is time?

Fun times fly but good times roll.

There are short times and long times, but no tall or wide times. You can be ahead of your time or behind the times, but not over, under, or beside the times. You can be on time, or stuck or frozen in time. You can be out of time or arrive in time but can you be outside of time? Time passes but you can also pass time. You can kill but not injure time. Time heals but you can’t heal time.


There’s something significant about how the representation in your head profoundly changes how you think.

–William Thurston

Moments are often referred to as points, as in tk “point in time.”

Points imply a line and, indeed, there’s a word for that: timeline.

The present cleaves the line into past and future, front and back. We look forward to the future while we put the past behind us and reflect on it with hindsight.

We can even sensibly generalize to parallel timelines, as understood in e.g. science fiction television.

In fact, line segments are enough to represent almost everything people say about time. We can query Google’s n-grams database for the adjectives that most frequently proceed the word “time:”

We can represent every one of these senses on one line:

To Float or Swim Upon River Time?

Two monks were arguing about a flag. One said: “The flag is moving.”

The other said: “The wind is moving.”

The sixth patriarch happened to be passing by. He told them: “Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving.”

–Mumon, The Gateless Gate

This paper points out that people tend to use two different systems when thinking about time: sometimes we talk as if the future moves towards us, and other times we talk as if we are the ones moving through it.

Am I moving?

Or is time?

Cuckoo Clocks

What would it mean for a timeline to curve? Could one have a zig-zag, twisty, or bendy time? No interpretation is immediately obvious.

“Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas — only I don’t exactly know what they are!”

Time is almost never considered a higher-dimensional object–Nietzsche bent the timeline into a circle, and later went mad.

Other time-polygons are even worse: circular time at least connects to the commonplace notion of deja vu, but what is a time-square or time-triangle?

It was just a colour out of space—a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes.

–H. P. Lovecraft, “The Color Out of Space”

Three-dimensions: time cube was the work of a madman and may have driven one person to suicide.




In Chi-nese (Yu, 1998), earlier times are also seen as being above later times, and particular setphrases in Chinese vary between this vertical metaphor and the front–back models. Some Eu-ropean languages also have up–down metaphors that relate to temporal structure. Consider theFrench historical termbasse antiquité(Late Antiquity, lit. “low antiquity”), or the two con-trasting usagesHigh Middle Ages(in English) andbas moyen agein French (lit. “low middleages”), technical phrases used by historians to refer to the same period, the later medieval pe-riod.



Time Frames

time sausage https://www.januscosmologicalmodel.com/januspoint

“What impertinence!” said the Pudding. “I wonder how you’d like it, if I were to cut a slice out of you, you creature!”

‘I could tell you my adventures—beginning from this morning,’ said Alice a little timidly: ‘but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I’m still there.’

Whence memory?

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,” the Queen remarked.

Further Reading

My grandfather clock stopped,
His ticker gave out,
Time passing.

I'm homicidal,
A thermonuclear ticking time bomb,
An atomic clock.

Time off? Time to off time,
I got Father time to kill,
His tick-tock is a dead beat.

While his burglar alarm clock snoozes,
I'll strike, midnight,
Minute man's last minutes.

His clockwork will be quick work,
For my clock-hand grenade,
A split second'll split seconds.

Blown into a million little timepieces,
It'll be a Father time share.
A split end.

Won't serve time because I won't serve time,
A couple of clockwise-guys'll take the fall,
A setup--a time frame.

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