“Life and Time are the world’s best teachers”

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Time is one of the fundamental quantities in the International System of Units used by scientists and as such is measured in second(s). From this, we derive the currently-used units of minute, hour, day, week, month, year, decade and century to express a given period of time. Smaller units would be the millisecond (10-6 second) or nanosecond (10-9 second). We are all too familiar with various expressions spoken or written involving the word “time”.

Let us list a few: We have nearly all at the primary school level always started an essay with: Once upon a time!, it is a question of time (as someone who is critically ill and nearing death), time is of the essence (time is important), to pass or (Mauritian translated from creole: kill (?) time, pastime, time permitting, give me enough time, time-table(how important in schools and for examinations) at this point in time, Victorian times (we live in different times), cancer is a disease of our time, in one’s free time, a waste of time, the doctor prescribes a given medicine to be taken three times a day (he has his reasons!)…

The gardener will work three times (days) a week, about time, all the time, behind time, for the time being, to run out of time, I have no time for you, from time immemorial (prostitution, often referred to as the oldest profession, has always existed), the time of one’s life, a lifetime(so much can be achieved in a lifetime! Or the chance of a lifetime) time will tell , time-consuming, time-frame, timekeeper, time limit, time bomb, in the nick of time, to buy time, in no time, to run out of time, in space and time and you can add more!

As a measured quantity, time is crucial and highly significant. For instance, we cannot tell the speed of a car or an aeroplane, the rate of a chemical reaction, radioactive decay (given as half-life and which is the time taken for half the initial amount of a radioactive substance to decompose), our pulse rate, the time taken for a drug to be eliminated from our body, also measured by its half-life, the record of the 100 metres race by Usain Bolt, without the factor of TIME. I have always been fascinated about how Bolt has to travel so many miles from Jamaica to London, or elsewhere in the world, with so many hours of flight just to run a 100 metres race in under 10 seconds! (9.96 seconds).

As a football fan (I support Liverpool because I studied and graduated in the city of the Beatles), you can imagine my anxiety waiting for the referee to blow the final whistle of the game especially after say 5 minutes added time when, fans locally, I have noted say “We” are leading by 1 -0! Manchester United (Man U or United) are very often lucky to score in the dying seconds either to win or save a draw! This is just to tease Man U fans! Incidentally, we watch matches played at 1500 hours in England when here it is 19:00 due to world time zones. Another effect of time!

One of the main causes of road accidents is undoubtedly due to speeding. Speed involves ‘de facto’ the factor of time. I just want you to realise that whilst you are driving a car at a speed of 60 kilometres per hour (kph), you are actually covering 16.6 metres per second and at 90 kph this corresponds to 25 metres per second. Incredible but true! To check, repeat the calculation on your own! The police further has a scale of the distance already covered when stopping a car at different speeds after applying the brakes.

Bearing in mind these figures, you can therefore appreciate all the dangers of fast driving alone and independent of other factors such as being under the influence of alcohol the state of the road or a defective motor vehicle. The time factor is also relevant in cases of drunken driving. It is useful to know the rate of elimination of alcohol from the body (an average of 12-15mg/hour) because certain back calculations can help to check the veracity of statements from drivers.

Forensic pathologists (also called Police Medical Officers locally) are often required to give the time of death that can help to elucidate murder cases. When decomposed bodies that have been in the open for a long period, a good indication of the time of death can be provided by swarming insects on the bodies because of their life cycles which are clearly demarcated by specific time intervals. This, however, requires the expertise of a forensic entomologist.

In rape cases the forensic biologist can only detect the presence of spermatozoa from a vaginal swab within about 36 hours after sexual intercourse. This is more relevant now from a DNA perspective; i.e.to be able to identify the suspect.

Time management

Time is so vital that people dealing with business management have devoted a lot of writing and preaching to it. We actually call these well-known figures “Management Gurus” to mention only Steven Covey and Robin Sharma or Jack Welch. If you know exactly how to spend your time, you may be able to manage it better. I have picked up a few main ideas I have come across in this regard.

Single words very often mean a lot to influence our behaviour. Organise. Prioritize. Keep track. Some tasks are URGENT & IMPORTANT. Some, NOT URGENT BUT IMPORTANT. Others URGENT but NOT IMPORTANT. Fewer tasks are NOT URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT. You can thus choose your priorities of activities and decisions in terms of TIME according to the above four.

Mark Twain once said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to eat it first in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first, get it out of the way and you do not worry about the rest of the day!” We can extrapolate these Business Management ideas also to our daily lives and in so doing can save a lot of time or use it appropriately. We have to budget our time, so to say. Some people wisely organise their life around prayer times and it is a good idea as in so doing they also satisfy their spiritual needs.

If technology has brought us many advantages and benefits, on the other hand, the misuse or abuse of it is also obvious. The web, email, social networking sites, if not managed properly, can distract you for hours. Think of some of the time-sucking websites that tempt some people!

Most of us are in the habit of delaying or postponing a given action (procrastinate). Procrastination is the thief of time! Man’s single greatest asset in life is the time at his disposal. It is up to us how we use it. We must remember that man has no control whatsoever over time itself. The three phases of time are: past, present and future.

In fact, it is only the present time we can use to our advantage: the past is gone and the future is yet to come and uncertain! “Whatever will be will be” goes the song : Que sera sera! Today, the present is our only real hope and opportunity. Our success or failure depends on how well we utilize it by doing good deeds or how foolishly we waste it. The analogy is often made of a trader selling ice which is constantly melting away. It is a wise businessman who sells the ice as soon as possible and earns profit, rather than sitting back to see the ice turning to water!

Time is precious. Time is money for the businessman. Someone might be ready to offer you money rather than his time which means time is more valuable. Have you noticed on television that at the end of a programme, the interviewer very often says to the person he or she is talking to: Thank you for your time!

“Life teaches us the use of time and Time teaches us the value of life”

And, we have often heard the maxim: One day is a long time in Politics! People also refer to quality time as the time they want to spend with family or friends, far or near, and enjoy it. We could perhaps also say luxury time!

Time is like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Therefore, enjoy every moment of your life! Life and Time are the world’s best teachers. Life teaches us the use of time and Time teaches us the value of life. Always find the time for the things that make you feel happy to be alive.

A touching story

Incidentally and appropriately enough, as I was planning this article, I received from a friend a very moving and emotional account of a little Indian girl, probably only 6 or7 years old, who went to her father to ask for Rs 50. The father was busy reading a newspaper after a day’s work. The girl approached him and just asked how much he earns per hour.

The father asked the little girl why she was asking such a question, repelled her and refused to give her the money, saying she would go and buy any useless and stupid toy. The girl insisted on the question and the father bluntly replied Rs 100 per hour. The little girl returned to her room, feeling sad and cuddled her teddies. The father, on the other hand, had a guilt feeling and entered her room and was quick to remedy the situation by offering her the Rs 50.

Immediately, the girl went to pick another Rs 50 from her savings and now had Rs 100 in all. The father queried why she had asked for Rs 50 when she had already Rs 50 which she had saved. This is the moving part of the story, dear reader: The girl handed back the Rs 100 to her father, uttering the following words: “Daddy, can I buy one hour of your time? You can come back home an hour earlier so that we can eat and chat together.

In this fast-moving world, people wish to have things instantly, especially the young ones. We are blessed to have so many things at the touch of a button or at a click! You are young and brilliant or even be near being a genius, but there is something called experience both in your career and in life at large which unfortunately cannot be acquired overnight and which requires the element of time equivalent to a fair number of years. Or, in other words, time and patience.

However, time is of limited supply. Each and every human being is in a state of loss and his time for fixing the situation is running out. But we can salvage ourselves from that state of loss by having faith in God, do good deeds, encourage one another to truth, share knowledge and experience by mutual teaching and have patience. Let us therefore vow a resolution for the New Year to make the best use of our available time and thus try to achieve real success.

I will end this article by quoting the final lines of Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem “IF”:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute;

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run;

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it;

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!


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