The Concept of Time Simplified
First of all let’s discuss what we mean by “time.” An easy way to find the meaning of the word is, of course, by looking up in a dictionary. According to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, what we mean by “time” is: 1 a. the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues : DURATION. b : a nonspatial continuum that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future c : LEISURE (time for reading) 2 : the point or period when something occurs : OCCASION 3 a : an appointed, fixed, or customary moment or hour for something to happen, begin, or end (arrived ahead of time) b : an opportune or suitable moment (decided it was time to retire) –often used in the phrase about time (about time for a change) 4 a : an historical period : AGE b : a division of geologic chronology c : conditions at present or at specified period – usu. used in pl. (times are hard) (move with the times) d : the present time (issues of the time) 5 a : LIFETIME b : a period of apprenticeship c : a term of military service d : a prison sentence 6 : SEASON (very hot for this time of year) 7 a : rate of speed : TEMPO b : the grouping of the beats of music : RHYTHM 8 a : a moment, hour, day, or year as indicated by a clock or calendar (what time is it) b : any of various systems (as sidereal or solar) of reckoning time.
Though there are admittedly numerous other explanations concerning time, we take it that the above explanations will for our particular purpose suffice. Certainly, to know what “time” is exactly, we have to ask ourselves this question: “How did men originally come to foster the idea that time exists?” In ancient times all people were able to say was that when the sun rose above them or when there was brightness then that would mean daytime; on the other hand, when darkness befell them, then that would mean night. Despite their inability to express their feelings in words, the cavemen had yet been able to know, every time they found themselves in the afternoon, that they had passed the morning and that it would soon be evening. This is understandable. They all had their memory. If only they had been able to express themselves whatever they had experienced that morning, in words which they themselves would be able to understand, they would, for example, have certainly said something like: “At the time I was having breakfast a tiger appeared.” That fragment of the short period of the condition in which he was having breakfast would have been replaced by one short word, i.e. “time.” And in a man’s life, there are so many such short periods of condition, e.g. “hunting time,” “sleeping time,” etc. In fact, there are also even longer periods of condition such as the period of the condition extending from the brightness of the day through to the darkness of the night, commonly referred to as a day. Strange though it may seem, it is obvious that while the world has, since the ancient times till today, had so many different languages, men have yet been able to acquire a shared understanding of this phenomenon. Later, when they became more advanced, for the sake of accuracy in communicating meanings and by means of a device which they themselves invented, each period of the condition of sunshine or day was divided into 12, and so was darkness or night. Although such an initiative did not, it is believed, originate from some place at the equator, they somehow still managed to divide the day and the night equally into twelve hours.
In conformity with the further improvements they achieved in communications, they then divided the hour into sixty minutes, and the minute into sixty seconds. It was since then that we have come to know such terms as hours, minutes and seconds, and even one-hundredth of a second. From the revolution of the moon around the earth and the earth around the sun we have such things as months and years. Apart from these units of time (second, minute, hour, day, month, year, century), we also have such adverbs of time as “the past” to refer to any period of time that we have passed, “the present” to the period of time we are undergoing, and “the future” to any period of time that is to come. Our growth from being an infant to becoming an adult further confirms that we have always been undergoing a condition in terms of time, which leads us to acknowledge that such things as the “past,” “present,” and “future” do exist. A period of condition that we have passed, either short or long, is commonly referred to as the past. A period of condition that we are undergoing is commonly referred to as “the present.” A period of condition that we will pass is normally referred to as “the future.” By implication, therefore, the “past,” the “present,” and the “future” are what we shall inevitably be experiencing on and on for as long as we live.