Saturday, March 6, 2010

thinking about time

It is fun to think about time and human life.  As little kids, a year is a long time.  For a life, 100 years is a long time.  1000 years, a millennium, is a big deal for humans, even though no one can live that long.  But through writing, art and artifacts, we know quite a bit about life 1 and also 2 millennia ago.  It is worth noting that, at least in English, 1000 years is long enough for pronunciation and vocabulary to change enough that we would likely have difficulty understanding someone speaking English of 1000 years ago, a longer period than the time since Chaucer, his Canterbury tales and the English in which they are written.  By the time we get to 10,000 years ago, we arrive at the invention of writing and of agriculture and are at about the limit of history.  Further back in time, we are in prehistory and biological history.  100,000 years or maybe 200,000 years is the period of modern humans.  Going back beyond, I know of only two further main time points.  4 million years is considered the time since any humans lived, since the famous Lucy.  Previous to that, we can think about the creation of the earth, the solar system, our galaxy and the universe.  Our sun is said to be about 5 billion years old and the universe about 13 billion years old.

I guess our European ancestors were quite upset to grasp the facts that showed our planet was not the center of the universe.  That understanding and others, even as recent as the 1920's realization that our galaxy contained 100 billion other stars beside our sun and the universe contains 100 billion galaxies, have piled up evidence that can frighten and depress us.  But our people have been facing the facts for a long time and still have the optimism and faith that we matter and will continue to matter.  As Psalm 8 asks, "What is Man that Thou Art Mindful of him?"

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