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Opinions of Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

My New Year problems with my clock

….and calendar

By George Sydney Abugri

Every New Year, I spend some time reflecting on the complex phenomenon called time and the symbol of an ordered universe called the calendar. There is always something eerie about the New Year, isn’t there?

All it took was a split second at the stroke of midnight on December 31 to seal off 2013 as an irreversible and irretrievable chap¬ter of history and transport us without any sensation of motion or movement straight into 2014-just like that! Since time zones vary across the world, New Year’s Day could not have occurred on the same day throughout the world. So on which day did the New Year really fall?

I hate the clock, the despotic symbol of time, that enslaves us to its ticking rhythm and has us perpetu¬ally scurrying to and fro all the time like headless chick¬ens, trying not to be late for this and that.

The only attempt by Africans to reform the concept of time imposed on us by other civilizations, has been informal and very negative in its approach: In “African time”, 9.00 am means 3. 00 pm, which cannot be good social and economic productivity and progress.

As for the calendar, it certainly ought to be reformed to make it more precise, so that you do not celebrate your birthday on Wednesday this year on a Friday the next and on Sunday the year after that. That some months have 30 days and others 31 one days complicates my problem with the calendar.

Oh yes, I have been obsessed with the mystery of time all my adult life. If you have only a few minutes left to catch a flight and you are still very far away from the airport and trapped in one very solid and dense traffic jam stretching for kilometers, the hands of your watch race madly towards departure time.

Yet, just wait till the day when for some reason, you skip breakfast before going into a three-hour uninterrupted meeting. It is long past noon, and your digestive tract is behaving like a grinding mill gone berserk, but the clock says break time is still one-and-a-half hours away. That is when time goes dead still, and the hands of the clock refuse to move.

It is all so strange. Absolutely strange. It means life is all about managing this tricky and deceptive phenomenon called time, so that it does not fool you into undue procrastination and complacency when you ought to be up and running.

We are being misled by the calendar and the wall clock. Both often lure people into taking undue liberties with the complex phenomenon in space called time to their eventual chagrin. In January, December appears to be a millennium away, and at six in the morning, there is the deceptive impression of a 48-hour day ahead.

One day you are crawling on all fours all over the place in urine-soaked nappies and grabbing at every object within reach. The next day, at six o’clock sharp in the morning, you look into the mirror, and you are a wrinkled old geezer heading for you-know-where.{That is if God lets you beat it past the average life span in this age of violence, pestilence, sin and gin.}

An event scheduled for December will usually appear to be crawling forward from a remote distance at the pace of a badly wounded snail. Yet come November, and time suddenly picks up incredible speed, and begins to race uncontrollably towards you like a comet. You then get very panicky and begin to wish it could slow down a bit, so that you could finish with this and that.

By the way, what is this rank nonsense about there being 24 hours in a day? Thanks to the origi-nal inventor of the clock and the world's own understanding of the concept of time, we shall never have a 72-hour day but does that mean a day actually lasts 24 hours?

Who says an hour should necessarily be a 60-minute one? My day is a 48-hour day, made up of "thirty-minute hours" and what the hell is the dif¬ference? What is today? Is today not tomorrow else¬where?

Everything must have a dimension and some form of quantifica¬tion. We can measure the base of a door frame, the strength of wind and the volume of a liquid in a glass. How is time measured? Is its measurement linear? Is it volumetric? The clock, an improved version of the product of an old time inventor’s imagination is not of much help.

The hands of a clock going round and round and round is not exactly my idea of scientific measurement. The clock cannot measure time any more than a tailor's measuring tape can measure the circumfer¬ence of the moon.

I sometimes find myself wishing clocks had a human intelli¬gence to make them rea¬sonable. That would have made it possible to make time stand still when need be, like traf¬fic coming to a dead halt so that school children could cross a busy street. The signs are that the clock will remain a slave master - rigidly controlling our lives like a dictator.

That is why I propose to invent my own time machine and when I am done, I shall move on to a diligent reformation of the calendar!

{The author is Editor-in-Chief of the General Telegraph} Website: www.sydneyabugri.com Email: editing@sydneyabugri.com