By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee
Covid-19 has made us realise that material possessions or intangible assets such as name, fame, glory, power have only relative worth because, at the end of the day, what we are really after is time to be with ourselves and with our near and dear ones
Hi. No apologies for this informal tone. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. But in my case it’s about, rather, being out of the ordinary – what I mean is that given my, ahem, age, normally I do tend towards the more formal style. More seriousness than levity kind of, white hair and balding head oblige. But we are in extraordinary times, aren’t we, courtesy Covid-19. So I will be a little more indulgent towards myself and a little more relaxed towards my readers as long as we are in sanitary lockdown.
Over with preamble, now we get down to business.
To start with, another three lessons revealed by Corona-ji.
First: Our basic survival needs are Health and Food. Without either we are kaput, dead.
Second: Everything that humanity has done from time immemorial has been attempts at organising ourselves to ensure that these two survival needs are met. Yes or no? Think about it.
Three: If death is the great leveller, then disease is the great equalizer. Currently the candidate that is taking all the medals is Covid-19. It has no preferences, is colour blind and feels equally at home in anyone’s respiratory apparatus – yellow, brown, black or white, or any combination thereof.
Given some thought to the second lesson above as yet? If not, no worry, take your time. For Covid-19 has made amends by granting you the greatest asset that you never realized you possess: TIME.
One usually thinks of assets in terms of material possessions: property, money, personal belongings such as ornaments especially those made of precious metals and so on. Or intangible assets such as name, fame, glory, power. Covid-19 has made us realise that all these have only relative worth because, at the end of the day, what we are really after is time to be with ourselves and with our near and dear ones.
How often have we heard the complaint: I can’t find time for this or that, or I don’t have time. Well, time is freely available isn’t it – just like the space that stretches towards the sky. We just have to make use of it properly, which we often don’t. And Covid-19 will have taught us, hopefully, that there is plenty of it around and what we do – or don’t do – during our waking hours is what gives quality and value to our lives.
We speak of quality of life, quality time – which have become buzz words these days. We have been provided with a golden opportunity to ponder on the actual meaning and value of time, and I’ll share some thoughts on that.
For a start, time is familiar to everyone, yet hard to define and understand. For all of us, time means hours, minutes, seconds. But that’s only measures of time, isn’t it. So WHAT is time in absolute terms? Does time exist? In any case, what does exist mean? So upon a little reflection, we realise that there’s much more to time than the name we attach to it!
But we leave such interrogations about the nature of time to science, philosophy, religion, and the arts, which have different definitions of time. The only thing that is relatively consistent is the system of measuring it, and that’s the seconds, minutes, and hours as mentioned above, with which we are familiar and which we look for in clocks and watches. And in our naivete, we think that that’s where time resides, don’t we!
Among scientists, it is the physicists who have delved into the question most profoundly, and the most famous among them, Albert Einstein, has come up with the Relativity Theory, which is all about time, his conclusion being that time is relative. For anyone interested, Covid-19 has given us plenty of… time to look that up! I hope some of you will do.
For us ordinary mortals, let’s stick to the simple definition given to us by physicists, namely that time is the progression of events from the past to the present into the future.
This accords with our common experience: we say that time passes when we see change taking place. It happens to us to begin with, as we observe the changes taking place in our body, which we call ageing.
But time is not something we can see, touch, or taste, though we can measure its passage – through the changes, effects or manifestations upon us. So basically, if something is unchanging, it is timeless, or ‘eternal’.
Apply this reasoning to Covid-19, and we find similarities: we cannot see, touch, taste, smell it. But we are suffering from its effects – on our bodies, and on all the systems we have put in place.
When we are all gone someday, Covid-19 will still be around. Maybe in a mutated form, but at its core, unchanging, beyond and through time.
Think of that. Spooky.
* Published in print edition on 27 March 2020