At least for now, time is unknowable.
We divide it up into parcels, and lay claim to some knowledge of what it is, but mostly we only invent ways of marking its passage.
This New Year then, serves as a marker of sorts, a way to gage why it is our hair turns gray and our children have children, and people we knew and loved are no longer down the hall.
We talk of time being long or short, depending entirely on ourselves and what it is we are doing. Time with loved ones, or with a really moist piece of chocolate fudge cake is always too short; time chained to a desk or suffocating under an approved waterboard interrogation is too long, always too long.
Time hitting just the right notes with just the right friends singing just the right song is too short; time being beaten and gang-raped on a bus in India is too, too long.
All we really have is time.
I followed on Indiantown Road here in Jupiter, Florida a yellow Maserati Quattroporte adorned with a bright red Christmas bow, most likely a present for some possibly lucky person. A hundred and twenty thousand dollars, give or take.
Some people think we own houses, and automobiles and fine, fine clothes. We do not. We own none of that; we use them for a time, we construct laws about ownership to exclude others, but those things own us.
All we own is time, and we know not for how long.
So, when some one gives you of their time, they are giving the only thing they have of any real value, although in our culture it is assigned little value. (Sandburg said it first and best, but then, he was best at finding the nugget of gold hidden deeply in alphabets.) But why is that true, when a Maserati flashes by in a contrail of dollar bills?
It is especially perplexing knowing that each individual is unique and each Maserati is just another Maserati.
But we people treat a Maserati as if it had some intrinsic value, housing it in its own house, waxing, polishing, feeding, while we let truly valuable humans die of hunger, or disease or cold.
How does this happen?
Because we have not been taught to value people. We have been taught to value some people, people like us, people on our side of the river, our part of town, our side of the ocean. But not people in general. We have been taught to value things, to protect things, wax and polish, house and care for
But people in general, especially people far away and different, we are taught to devalue, to distrust, even to fear. It is astonishing that we are taught to value distant and exotic things, (Maseratis, jade carvings from the Ming Dynasty, paintings by Raphael or Michelangelo or Van Gogh) and yet to fear and distrust the people.
If we really valued people, we would have fewer borders and more bridges, instead of manufacturing arms to destroy we would be growing arms to embrace, rather than spending hundreds of billions on more and more lethal and devastating machines of destruction we would be investing those billions in education and research and development to promote and aid countries in need.
We would have less fear and more hope.
There is nothing wrong with a Maserati. It is a truly fine piece of engineering, and surely a pleasure to drive. It is just not worth the life of even one person dying.
That lesson we have yet to learn.