Therefore a major problem when discussing time, is that the we do not have the necessary vocabulary to talk about it. Words are like tools and without the right tools, we can't get the job done. It's like needing a wrench when what you have is a hammer. When we consider the subject of time, we simply don't have the right wrenches and pliers in our toolbox.
Take the word *now*:
- it can mean this exact moment (such as: What is the time now?)
- or a bit before this moment (I did what you asked just now.)
- or a bit after this moment (Lets do this now.)
- or today (I'll get this done now.)
- of this year (Now the politics are getting ugly.)
- or this decade (Now we do things differently than they did in the 1980s.)
- or the near future (Will we be able to build a high speed rail network now?)
In the arctic climate the "language of the Sami people [ED: also known as Laplanders] actually includes around 180 snow and ice related words..." (en.wikipedia.org)We must learn from the Sami people and construct at least as many different words and phrases for different aspects of time as they have for kinds of snow. Because for both us and them, our lives depend on it.
The six-tense language Kalaw Lagaw Ya of Australia has the remote past, the recent past, the today past, the present, the today/near future and the remote future. (en.wikipedia.org)A major effort of this blog will be to suggest new terms and new terminology. Naturally these are only suggestions and readers may have better ideas. I invite feedback. And to get started here is a suggestion for two new terms.
Time has two different almost opposite natures: one is quite flexible, the other is hard and unforgiving.
While many of us believe that "what's done is done and what's past cannot be undone," this is simply not true. For most of our waking hours, we live in what I call 'fluid time'. This means that you have flexibility to, for example, go back and fix something if it did not get fixed the first time -- to change your schedule around; to rework things that did not work properly.
In this case time has not 'hardened' because what you are doing can still be molded, modified, altered, changed or corrected. Most days you deal with this kind of time.
Yet like a beloved dog or cat who suddenly decides to bite, time can rear its other nature and cause no end of grief.
Perhaps the most agonizing and mysterious aspect of time is when it becomes irreversible and suddenly sets like hardened concrete; this is hardened time. Or we could call this 'irreversible time'. It can happen in minor ways and in major life events. When a cup falls off a table and breaks into a hundred pieces, it is only annoying yet irreversible.
'Irreversible time' can happen gradually. A man who can never get around to asking his girlfriend to marry him may find, without his realizing it, that she has slipped away and the moment to marry her has passed.
'Irreversible time' can happen suddenly. When out of the blue a car swerves into your lane and causes an accident in which a person is killed, it is too late to go back and change things. It is this kind of time that people are speaking about, when they say there's no use worrying about the past and there is no going back. There's no use crying over spilled milk.
There are points when fluid time slips into irreversible time, as when I leave home and drive to work forgetting an essential notebook. For the first few minutes, if I remember, I can go back and get it, but later in my commute, I do not have that option as it will make me late for work. The 'window of opportunity' will have closed.
- fluid time -- this could also be called flexible time, but that might confuse it with the work related term flextime
- hardened time -- this could also be called irreversible time