According to Google, the word relative has multiple meanings and uses in grammar.
- considered in relation or in proportion to something else
- denoting a pronoun, determiner, or adverb that refers to an expressed or implied antecedent and attaches a subordinate clause to it, e.g. which, who
- a person connected by blood or marriage
- a relative pronoun, determiner, or adverb
This morning I woke with my mind working on the relevance of both the word and its derivatives. My focus centered on how much of our perception of the world and our places in it depend on the use and meaning of the seemingly simple word “relative”.
Relatively speaking, (pun intended) our very lives revolve around it. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at what I mean.
Our concept of time and its use depends completely on our relationship to the definition of time. For instance:
Clock time: point of time as measured in hours and minutes past midnight or noon.
- plan, schedule, or arrange when (something) should happen or be done
- measure the time taken by (a process or activity, or a person doing it).
Mind time: the passage of events, experience, or existence as measured by the brain/mind in nanoseconds of clock time. (my definition)
- passage of climatic seasons
- passage of growing seasons (including livestock)
- passage of daylight hours
If this series of definitions confuses you, consider this. Time is a concept with imaginary boundaries. Man created this concept back in the beginnings of our species. Night and day, dusk and dawn, now and then. Our lives and our language are punctuated by innumerable references to time’s measure. And, most peculiar of all, we measure our lives in time, as if only it can define how we experience them.
In the end, all things, all experience, all life is relative. It must be so, since we measure life (a concept defined only by itself/derivatives) by yet another concept—time.
How can this be? How else can it be is a more pertinent question.
Our far-distant relatives framed their world and their lives simply. Night and day, warm and cold, wet and dry, etc. As generations progressed the simplistic definitions of experience became more honed, narrower, until now we have this plethora of relationships with experience and life and time. The clock now rules our existence, as if mandated from above.
Yet, mind time still exists and flourishes if one chooses to allow it. It is as fluid as the sea. We do dream, after all, and dreams happen only in mind time. Ask anyone who’s experienced a major catastrophe or life-changing event. They will tell you that time seemed to stand still.
That, my friends, is mind time in action—when all seems to hover in reality (there’s that reference again) as if the person stands outside her/himself and watches the event unfold in extreme slow motion. The brain has kicked in to record as many details as possible for later retrieval.
The next time you use words like here and there, now and then, this and that, stop for a second and pay homage to your ancestors for the relative fluidity of time, language and life's expression.
Unknowingly, those ancestors captured the essence of quantum physics and relativity when they began narrowing our definitions of time, experience and life during its passage. If the ancients were correct, all living things are born to live a particular number of seconds. Few have calculated how many seconds they have used or know how many are left to them. Instead, most while away life, watching clocks tick and schedules grow more crowded by the day.
Society often condemns those who take time to stroll through life, noticing small things and finding delight in their existence. The strollers, many times however, are healthier, happier, and more satisfied with their lives than the time-keepers.
Enjoy your day or night as you ponder this subject. Where do you fall on the timeline of definition?
Take care, stay safe and healthy, and remember, time waits for no man, or woman for that matter.