Time As God

Can time be considered a religion? The deification of time in the modern world. 

Part of what makes any museum but especially the British Museum so well-loved is how it provides an easily accessible insight into cultural values. It should be an artfully chosen distillation of a community of the past, combining history, art, mathematics, and the physical being into one. Visiting the British Museum led me to realize exactly how much value modern Western cultures tend to place on time to the extent that it is arguably deified. The museum has curated a Clocks exhibition, where gold, silver, and every other type of precious metal adorn intricately designed clocks. They do not always have a practical use, admittedly, but then again, is a tabernacle really “practical” if you take faith out of it?

Like churches, mosques, and temples, clocks are constructed by the human hand with startling detail and care. Hours of toil go into crafting an elaborate exterior of a machine that very possibly is not even accurate, but which we believe has vital use to our daily lives because of how much we rely on time to keep our schedules in order. Religious edifices are beautiful because (1) people want to properly represent the perceived inherent value of the thing they are worshipping and (2) people know that viewing something as art will deter its destruction by rival hands. Similarly, the exteriors of these clocks convey the magnitude of worship individuals bestow on time – a golden ship, for example, evokes the idea of time as the ocean that we humans navigate on an endless passage. And who would, then, dare destroy the awe-inspiring representation before them, not just an image of human belief but a reminder of human potential for creating beauty?

Furthermore, like religion, for some people time can become a haunting, obsessive concept. What was once simply a guiding measure consumes them. Using religion as an excuse for mistreatment or even abuse of others is equivalent to justifying extreme hedonism with the idea of “our lives being short.” And just like how some people continuously impose their religious beliefs on others, some people impose their schedules on others to the extent that it becomes difficult to interact with them. “I have to make this appointment at exactly 12 pm. If I am five minutes late, then it is the end of the world.”

Time even arguably can perform the function of spiritual release. Religion brings release in that it affirms human potential but equally affirms insignificance in the eyes of a greater scheme of things. Time affirms human potential in the simplest of platitudes – “We’ve got time.” And yet, it denies it in every other facet, whether it be the incertitude of the future or the demonstration of individual insignificance in the grand scheme of eternity.
The thing I find above all intriguing, however, is that just like any religion, time is both divisive and unifying. It breaks us apart into the past and future but holds us to the present. For Westernized cultures, even in the present it carves up the world into zones but brings us back together in the fact that we are so attentive to a single numerical reading.
It is also important to note that I have been primarily describing the Western, “monochronic” view as presented in the British Museum. As there are branches within religions, there is also another “polychronic” view of time practiced by some southern European, Latin American, African, and Asian civilizations, where they prioritize experience over order. However, the presence of clocks throughout the histories of these civilizations – ranging from beautifully painted sundials, water clocks, and modern clocks alike – proves that time has always been a governing force as well throughout polychronic individual’s lives. Some may experience it differently, but it can’t be denied that everyone experiences time. [2]

Perhaps time is a hidden religion, and the only universal one at that. No one, regardless of ethnicity or personal beliefs, denies that time is ticking. Perception of time may vary slightly from culture to culture or even individual to individual, but we are all bound together by the fact that we all experience it in the first place.
[1] Featured image from https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rolling_ball_clock_in_the_British_Museum.jpg

[2] http://www.exactlywhatistime.com/other-aspects-of-time/time-in-different-cultures/

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