The Theosophical Forum — October 1943

TEMPUS FUGIT — Hannah Berman

Time is one of the most perplexing illusions that tantalizes poor bewildered mankind. For it is an illusion — a perfect illusion. What is time? In a sense, it has no existence per se, any more than has space. Like space again, it has existence only when marked by boundaries.

It is a very interesting problem, and intriguing to the thinking mind. The pilot of an airplane thinks of visibility of space in minutes or hours of flying time. This appears to make time and space synchronize.

On the other hand, one might say that time is a personal thing since it appears differently to every individual, and that even the attitude of any individual towards an appreciation of time varies so much according to conditions, environment, state of mind, state of health, and so on. To one, for instance, with a deep love and appreciation of music, an evening passed in listening to a symphony concert might go in the "twinkling of an eye," so to speak; while to another the time spent in this way might seem an interminable age of intolerable boredom.

Yet it is the same time and the same condition which apply to both. So this proves that the crux of the matter lies in the individual and not so much in the outer conditions. In "As You Like It," Rosalind gives a beautiful dissertation on the subject. She works out time's gait with different people. She says:

Time travels in divers paces with divers persons. I'll tell you who time ambles withal, who time trots withal, who time gallops withal and who he stands still withal.

In childhood, days seem long and periods of time unending: a year is a decade, and longer periods are quite outside the understanding and comprehension of the child mind. As we grow older, time seems to hurry, we cannot "catch up'; we think ahead all the while, looking forward and backward, and never pausing to grasp the present, until we gasp for breath and implore: "Time, you old gypsy man, will you not stay?"

The capacity of children to live in and make the fullest use of the present is one of the most beautiful and healthful aspects of childhood. Alas! that this faculty should fade with advancing years, when with Burns:

We look before and after
And pine for what is not.

The plan should be to make the most of every moment of our time, and then the aggregate is bound to be worth while. A day well spent gives a satisfaction which is deep.

If one can, before closing one's eyes at night, look back upon the events of the day just passed and examine how the hours have been spent, where more and better use could have been made of time, where an action here and there could have been improved, where a sin of inaction has been committed, and so on, the analysis can be an enormous help to future conduct. It is a good habit and once formed easy and increasingly interesting to follow through. Moreover it gives the individual the opportunity and practice of criticising his own conduct, of looking at his actions impersonally, and of understanding his own nature and his impulses.

Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control,
These three alone lead life to sovereign power.

           — Tennyson

The Theosophical Forum