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Chapter 3 – Time

I was heading east to the next planet when the engine indicator turned on, forcing me to make a detour and stop at the first space station in transit. I was so upset about the unscheduled stop, but only now, retracing my day, I realize how stopping was unavoidable. While waiting to have back my spaceship, I decided to check the area; unlike the other planet, it seemed a place where people were living. A little town with family houses, different buildings, probably working places, squares with cultural centers. There wasn’t a single one on the street, but you could glimpse people’s lives through their windows. Warm smiles and calm movements, no one seemed in a hurry, but most surprisingly, there was no sign of modern technology. No LED advertising board on the streets, no tv, computer, or phones in the houses; nevertheless, each building had a sundial or a moon dial; looking attentively, I could distinguish other timepieces: pendulum clocks, hourglasses.

Strolling through the streets, I couldn’t stop noticing the number of time markers found in that city. Each clockwork was passing at different speeds, but none of their owners seemed preoccupied with it. While I kept on walking, many questions passed through my head: “How could these people agree on the time to meet?” “How can they be so calm and slow, when so many ticking reminds them of time passing by?” “Who created all of this timepieces?”

Down the alley, I could hear the tickings intensifying, marked by different chimes. Following the direction, I found myself staring at an old but distinct artisan working on a clock gear. I was fascinated, more hypnotized by all those clocks having a life of their own, looking agitated while their master, in contrast, was calm and delicate in movement. I shook my head as to awaken myself from a spell well-intentioned to reach my spaceship, when I heard: <<Oh, I’m sorry, do come in, sometimes I get carried away when I start creating a new piece.>> I turned just so to quickly reply, <<No, I need to leave, I was only having a look, didn’t want to disturb.>> The man calmly stood up. He was tall and straight with a white bear and a tailored jacket. <<Why are you in a hurry? You control your time. I’m sure you can keep some time for a little discovery. I can see you have some questions unanswered about this place.>> Something about the whole situation was captivating, and I no longer felt the rush and impatience to hit the road. The tickings weren’t annoying nor irritating anymore.

<< How do you cope with all these different timeclocks?>> The man signaled me to come in while moving a chair to make me sit. I followed. << Well, as I told you earlier, you control your time. They are just indicators that help you move within a space. Time is not a real thing, but your perception makes it real. If you are aware of that, you are free to cope anyhow with different perceptions. Right?>> I wasn’t sure I could keep up with his reasoning, but it was so relaxing that I kept asking questions. <<So, is this the reason why people here are not worried about the time passing by?>> The man smiled, <<You could say that, but it has not always been like that. Initially, we needed time to understand our planet: the days passing by, the seasons, the years, and so on. For that reason, I created a standing clock in the main square of the town, with a very complex model: it had a Tourbillon, a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar, and a split Chrono. People found it complicated while I thought it was rather adaptable to everyone’s needs. The result was a lot of confusion! Everyone became unhappy, always in a rush, and people kept complaining about how time was flying away. Nobody was giving space for the present. The most precious gift we have. They were all projected into the future or dwelling on the past. I needed to stop the delusion. I destroyed it. To rectify the damage, I decided to create a personal clock for each inhabitant, reminding them that they’re in charge of time, not the other way around.>> I naturally asked, <<If time is not a real thing, why do you spend a lot of it creating instruments that will mark it?>>

In the meantime, the man got back working on the clock gear, without looking away from it, he replied: <<Yes, time is not real, but we are, so are our experiences. Time helps us understand how we felt about them. Take notice: when you enjoy something, time seems fast; when you are bored, time seems slow, but when you value something, you give a lot of time to it. In this case, time becomes the most precious ingredient, and you want it to be slow.>> My face must have shown a baffled expression because the man went on adding, <<I love gifting people with valuable experiences, that’s why I spend a lot of time creating these.>> He said, looking at the surrounding. Then, he handed me over a compass with three hands of a clock made out of gold. <<Take these, and at your next experience, see what they indicate to you.>> I knew it was time to go, but I wanted to stay more. I sighed, thank the man for the precious gift, and waved him while I worked back up to the alley. I saw my spaceship waiting for me at the space station. Who knows how long it was there, ready! It was going to wait a little longer because I felt the urge to take some time to write my logbook.

I think my perspective has changed after this unplanned encounter. It’s funny how we believe we know how things around us work and how to give them an objective value or measure; when really, everything is relative but becomes objective according to how many of us relate to it. I’m curious to understand how this compass works. Now let me get back to my journey, and arrive at my destination on (or what I believe is) time.

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