19

Context

Context is something I always missed in History class, back in school. The least interesting or important thing about History, to me, was always the dates. Think about it. JFK was shot on November 22nd, 1963. But the important thing here is that he was shot. Then maybe that he was shot toward the end of November of 1963, then that he was shot toward the end of 1963. How would your life be any different if it had been Saturday, November 23rd? I bet it wouldn’t. The thing or event is important, and what the thing means or meant is important. How everyone involved reacted and has reacted since is important. But that it happened on a given day has never carried a lot of water, with me. Where do you draw the line with the granularity, there? Should we teach 1963 only? Should we teach November of 1963? Do we need to teach November 22nd of 1963? Does it have to be Friday, November 22nd, 1963? Friday, November 22nd, 1963, at 12:32pm Central Time in Dallas, Texas? At some point the fact becomes merely trivia. See what I mean? What possible difference could it make? I understand the idea that we need to assign dates and times like an index of sorts to historical events. Event 012345 comes […]

05

The Elasticity of Time

I’ve always been impressed with the elasticity of Time. You’ve probably seen a few examples of it yourself—how a moment doing this passes longer than an hour doing that. How you stumble upon a movie that you haven’t thought of in quite a while and suddenly realize you can’t quite place it in time. That last one happened to me just this last week, as I was scrolling through the TV listings and happened upon Tom Hanks in Castaway. It turns out that film came out in the year 2000, which means it can drive now and it’ll be old enough buy a drink next year. How can that be? Really? We measure time in a way we have found to be convenient and not really by any specific events. In other cultures, in other eras, they tried systems where every day had 24hrs, and the hours themselves grew or shrunk depending upon the season. That must have been a handful, huh? Then again, maybe one day another culture will wonder about our having so many time zones and then still using concepts like Daylight Savings. I don’t know. But what we call a day doesn’t begin at sunrise or end at sunset. And we have ordered our weeks and months and years accordingly, too. It doesn’t really matter anymore when the planting […]