ONCE IN A ‘BLUE MOON‘ – WELCOME TO NEW YEAR :
In the United States, on New Year’s Eve, we had a ‘Blue Moon’ to ring in the Year 2010. As the saying goes, the Blue Moon is a rare event. In any given season, we encounter three Full Moons. Blue Moon is defined as the third Full Moon in a season with four Full Moons. It is also easy to define a Blue Moon as the second Full Moon in a given month. A Full Moon occurs every 29.5 days and most years have 12 Full Moons. An extra Full Moon in a month is described as a Blue Moon. The name has nothing to do with the color of our celestial neighbor. The first Full Moon of the month occurred on December 2nd. On Thursday, December 31, the New Year’s Eve, the Full Moon appeared for the second time. An extra Full Moon occurs every 2.5 years. New Year’s Eve Blue Moons are rarer occuring every 19 years. The last time was in 1990, and the next Full Moon comes on New Year’s Eve again in 2028.
While the United States ushered the New Year with a Blue Moon and in the Eastern Hemisphere, people celebrated the arrival of the New Year with a partial Lunar Eclipse when part of the Moon entered the Earth’s shadow. This Eclipse was not visible in the Americas. As to how we recognize the arrival of New Year depends upon the place where we live on this planet Earth. This New Year’s Blue Moon is unique to the place where we live.
THE PERCEPTION OF CHANGE :
The experience of time on this planet Earth is an illusionary experience and is not an ‘absolute’ experience. In New York City, at Times Square thousands of people gathered on the New Year’s Eve to watch the “Ball” drop to ring in the New Year.
The future does not exist except in our expectation. The expectation that the Ball would drop at a precise moment is the anticipated future. The future gets transformed into the past in an instant when the Ball drops down. The past does not exist except in our memory. The present represents that instant in the future and past continuum. The New Year has arrived at the middle of the night not because of a perceptible ‘Change’ in the environment. The ‘Change’ is recognized by the use of a clock and the Ball in Times Square drops by perceiving the ‘Change’ in the clock’s time. Time is perceived by the ‘Change’ it brings. Man has invented calendars and clocks to affix numbers to the passage of time. The most a clock can give is the time an instant ago and not even the time ‘now’.
In Indian Tradition, the New Year is associated with more perceptible changes in the physical environment. According to Indian calendars, the New Year arrives during the Spring Season, and the New Year’s Day is heralded by the dawn with the Sun rising above the horizon.
THE HISTORY OF TIME MEASUREMENT :
Earth’s rate of spin is the determinant of our day. The speed of the Earth’s rotation can be described in two ways: 1. The Angular or Omega Speed – the Earth rotates 360 degrees in 24 hours, or 15 degrees per hour, or 0.5 degrees of rotation in two minutes. 2. The Linear Speed or Velocity of a point on the surface of the Earth is about 1,000 miles/hour. A clock ( from the Latin Cloca – bell ) is an instrument for measuring time intervals of less than a day as opposed to a Calendar which measures time intervals greater than a day.
The day is measured in relation to the time taken for Earth’s rotation that causes perceptible environmental changes. Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens ushered us into the era of precision timekeeping. During 1884, Greenwich in England was adopted as the zero degree longitude. U.S. time zones came into existence in 1883, the global time zones came into use in 1884, and ‘daylight’ savings time came into use in 1915. However, the Earth is an erratic time keeper. The Earth’s rotation is affected by the tides, changing weather patterns, ocean currents, and polar ice variations. The net effect is that it is slowing, losing a few thousandths of a second per century. Half a billion years ago the planet took only 20 hours to make it through the day. In another 200 million years an Earth Day will last 25 hours. Man has acquired the ability to track the motion inside atomic nucleus. Picoseconds describe trillionths of a second, and Femtoseconds describe thousandths of a Picosecond. To give a better perspective, it could be stated that there are more Femtoseconds in one second than there were seconds in the past 31 million years.
The seasons of Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn and the phases of the Moon are used to measure the passage of time of a greater duration than a day. The Babylonians, and the Egyptians had used calendars. The Calendar developed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 is accurate to a day in every 3,323 years. The Calendar is related to Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Earth’s orbit around the Sun takes about 365 1/4 days. Earth orbits the Sun at a distance of about 93 million miles. Earth travels a distance of about 584 million miles per year at about a speed of 66,660 miles/hour. The Moon rotates on its axis and revolves around the Earth in about 29.5 days and has helped man to devise the 30 day Lunar Calendar. Moon spins with the same period as its revolution around the Earth and hence the same face of the Moon always points towards the Earth.
HUMAN CONCEPTS ABOUT TIME :
We run our lives by numbers on Clocks and Calendars. The Clocks and Calendars create the illusion that we live in a world of mathematically measured segments of time. Man acquired advanced language abilities to descirbe the past in terms of personal experience. Because of linguistic skills, man is able to communicate his expectations about future and reminisce about past events. Time is lloked upon as a flow like a river.
Sir Issac Newton claims that the time “flows equably without relation to anything external.” In 1905, while postulating the Theory of Relativity, Albert Einstein had observed that time is not absolute and that the measurement of time is affected by the motion of the observer.
The relativity of time becomes significant only at very great speeds. Rapidly moving clocks tick more slowly than clocks at rest. Herman Minkowski, a mathematician, added time as the fourth dimension of three dimensional space. Time is seen as a dimension like height, and width, and it gives meaning to events and the order in which they occur. Gravity affects both time and light. Time is affected by the gravitational field of each celestial body and thus is unique to any one spot in the universe. The physicists tend to view time and space as the building blocks of the universe. However, time is not a substance and it is only a measuring tool. Motion and time are invariably linked. There can be no velocity without the concept of time. While time is not absolute, the speed of light ( 186,282 miles/second ) is absolute. Now, we have the practical ability to actually look at past while living in the present. By looking at light reaching us from a far away Galaxy, or a Supernova, we are looking as it was billions of years ago.
THE BIOLOGICAL CLOCK :
A biologist sees time in the ‘internal clocks’ that keep all living entities in sync with nature. The body’s dominant time cycle is called the ‘Circadian Rhythm’ ( Latin Circa – approximately; and Dies – day or About a Day ). For most of us a normal circadian cycle is 25 hours. A seven day week could be described as a unit of time for the biological rhythms that regulate changes in body chemicals, the response pattern of the immune system, the rise and fall of heart beat and changes in circualtion display this periodicity of functioning. Human body undergoes age related changes in structure and function with the passage of time and it is unrelated to man’s ability to measure time or man’s concepts about time. Aging is a time related biological phenomenon on which man has very little control. The biological clock measures time and the activity of genes is selectively turned on or off. Apart from cell damage due to the products of cell metabolism, effects of physical environment, and biological agents, cells experience senescence. We are predestined to exist as mortal individuals and the human body experiences changes in its structure and function even if we fail to keep track of the passage of time. Humans lack the biological and physiological abilities to transform our physical bodies into sources of perpetual enjoyment. Time has influence over both animate and inanimate world. Apart from human existence, the existence of this created universe is subject to time’s Power of Dissolution. The White Dwarfs, the Brown Dwarfs, the Super Novae offer observable evidence about the effects of time on physical objects and its power to cause change, transformation, and eventually dissolution.
WHERE ARE WE NOW ?
Where were we in the year 2009? Where would we exist in the year 2011? In the year 2010, where are we now? Our measurement of time gives the illusionary experience of the material world in which we exist. Our experience of time is illusionary as we do not know as to when time began and we do not know as to when it may cease to exist. Indian thinkers have described time or “KAALA” as eternal and time existed before creation, and would continue to exist after dissolution of creation. During this middle interval, after creation and before its dissolution, time exists in relation to motion. When there is no motion in absolute terms, there would be no time interval that could be measured, and the stillness arrests the flow of time. Since, time is related to movement, we need a reference point to know our exact position at any given instant. Our position on the surface of the Earth keeps changing as Earth participates in the motions of the Sun as a member of the Milky Way Galaxy. The Sun also revolves around the galactic center at a speed of about 155 miles/second and Earth participates in this motion along with the rest of the Solar System. We need to know the precise location of the Sun in the Milky Way Galaxy at any given time and also know the precise location of the Milky Way Galaxy in the universe in which it exists. Without this information, our experience and understanding of time remains purely a local experience relative to a spot in this universe of unknown dimensions.
LINEAR vs CIRCULAR TIME FLOW :
Is past, present, and future are arranged in a straight line? In the West, time is more often viewed as a one-way track. The “monochronic” perception about time in the West could be related to its cultural beliefs such as resurrection which gives a sense of the arrow of time pointing in one direction. In India, time is viewed as a circle and all things are expected to return to a former state of existence. In nature, the seasons repeat themselves, and the living entities follow this pattern of cyclical growth and regeneration. According to the Indian concept of ‘Samsara’, the individual soul is eternal but is trapped in a cyclical existence of birth, death, and rebirth. The Indian concept of ‘Karma’ also very firmly binds the individual soul to its past states of existence and the individual experiences the past in his present existence, and also in all of his future states of existence. The cyclical flow of time would let us experience the past and lets time to repeat itself.
TIME’S POWER OF DISSOLUTION :
Time exerts a powerful influence over the qualitative aspects of human existence. Whatever qualities or attributes such as material wealth, power, status, and social position that man cherishes and desires most could be dissolved and rendered useless by the effects of time. Indian thinker Adi Shankaracharya has cautioned people to be aware of the powerful force of Illusion called ‘MAYA’ and we are asked to avoid the perceptual problems it generates. Since the manifested world and universe gives illusory experience, we need to be careful about the effects of time that tends to dissolve the manifested universe at an individual level and also as a collective human sensory experience. A philosopher had observed that:”Time is the Best Teacher, unfortunately, it kills all its pupils.” Humans have no choice. Time alters our ability to perceive the sensory experience and enjoyment of our physical body. Time with its Power of Dissolution would eventually compel us to investigate and to explore the Concept of Absolute and Unchanging Reality. The Strong Nuclear Force, the Weak Nuclear Force, Electromagnetism, and the Gravitational Force operate the Four Fundamental Interactions and the role of time has not been explained by physicists. Natural scientist Charles Darwin had observed that things in nature change with time. Does time exert a force entirely of its own to change things in nature? If time is viewed as a power or a force, who controls this force and what are the Laws that operate this Force? Indian thinkers are of the opinion that Purusha ( the Divine Soul ), Prakriti ( the material Nature ), and Kaala or Time are eternal and these three entities existed before formation of this created universe, will operate during the existence of this created universe, and eventually remain existing after the total dissolution of the present created universe. The flow of time is eternal, but time is not absolute. Purusha or the Supreme Divine Soul is the ultimate Controller of Energy in all of its forms. The Power of Time to dissolve the creation has no effect on the Creator. All the living entities are created by the Superior Energy of the Supreme Divine Soul, and the individual souls have the ability to exploit energy of an inferior source such as Prakriti ( material Nature ). The physical body experiences dissolution as per a predetermined time ( Kaala Sutra ), and the individual souls alone survive the dissolution of animate and inanimate world and universe.
ESSENCE AND EXISTENCE :
Everything that is born arrives with a plan for its dissolution. In the multicellular human organism, each individual cell has its life span and the human individual has his life span. How is the existence of the individual is established in a multicellular organism? Man may choose to define his essence, and the cells need to function to support the existence of the individual. Man’s identity is just one face of the coin, and the second face of the same coin represents the individuality of that person. Man exists as long as the individuality is maintained. Man is not capable of independent existence. The individuality is sustained because of ‘God Connection’; the Connection that connects the individual who is energy seeker with his energy provider. Man’s intellectual or physical effort is not the basis for this God Connection. As time flows, man lives his life span because of the mercy, compassion, and grace of the Creator, who had caused the existence of this object that has identity and individuality.
Please view related blog post titled ‘The Perception of Reality-Maya is a Fundamental Force’
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S., Class of April, 1970.