Perceptions of Time

The Night

The night is a time of terror. Goblins, ghosts and demons do not roam during the day. But Hollywood is not alone in giving us stories of the horrors of night. The devil is the "Prince of darkness." That alone is enough to comdemn the nightime forever to that part of a day that will always represent evil.

Crime usually takes place at night. The exception might be the bank robber whose access to cash registers is available only during banking hours. People feel safer walking about during the day, believing consciously or unconsciously criminals somehow magically disapear like vampires when the sun comes up. If crime does occur during the day it would be in a dark alley.

In everyday life, working at night is working the "nightshift," a time that wreaks havoc on home life and usually means someone can't find normal work during the day. So, it's humiliating to work at nightunless youre a cop or doctor. Still, working at night is lonely. Or, its a time when you meet the strangest of people.

The night is mysterious largely because of the stars, often times the only thing a person can see in the dark when the moon is not shining and their are no other lights. And of course, dreams take place at night. Dreaming at night is frequently romanticized as a time of "sweet dreams." Romance novels depict the night as a time when imaginary lovers "steal" through the window "like a thief in the night."

Dreams are mysterious and rarely occur in a linear fashion. Like a movie without an editor, dream sequences seem to jump from scene to scene without any time reference at all. Dreams are strangeand they occur at night.

Sleep-aid drug manufacturers advertise their products for those who can't sleep at night, and refer to the sleep cycle as sleep in the night and wake up in the morning. Our very language consists of indelible phrases like "see you in the morning" and have a good night.

Stereotypically, sex takes place at night largely because we work during the day and the night is a time for romance and love. We go on dates at night. We dance in the night. We get drunk in the night. Despite 24-hour casinos, its strange to see someone gambling at 6am.

Night Into Day

The image of farmers rising before dawn is firmly fixed in our minds as representing the good of the earth. Farmers rise before we do, work longer hours, and go to bed before we do. Like farmers, we sweat during the day and cool off in the evenings.

Such a wholesome image is sharply contrasted with the real world of farmers who use artificial lights to fool chickens and allow plants to grow faster.

Kids have to be to school at 8am, or thereabouts. Most people start work at 9am. Nearly all businesses keep 9-5 hours, a conflict when someone works full time and their kids must be picked up around 3pm.

The Internet promised to turn a 9 to 5 world into a 24/7 world. Its true we are no longer confined to the rigid schedules of snail mail, but when it comes to 24 hour banking, who is up at 3am anyway?

The day is when we do things simply because its the only time we can see what were doing. Of course, the invention of electricity gave us the lightbulb, and now just about anything we do during the day we can do at night. However, water skiing at night is probably not recommended.

During the day the sun shines, and nothing symbolizes happiness more than good old sunshine. Rain darkens the sky and scares us. Doomsday is characterized by darkened skies. Without sunshine, nothing grows.

Daydreaming is frowned upon in a work-based society. Some progressive types think daydreaming is actually good, a time we are creative, planning our lives and futures, or coming up with ideas. An idea, born in a second, can alter the course of time.

Day or Night

The flow of time is marked by a succession of days and nights. In terms of an evolving planet, no ones counting. According to the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), the earth is just under 14 billion years old. Its unlikely anyone has calculated this to the day.

The differences between day and night are one clich after another. The sun rising is happy and exciting. The sun setting is sad and a time for reflection. A new day means a chance to start over or finish something you started yesterday. The day is a time when you get up and get things done and wont rest until the night falls. The day means action. The night means funor rest.

Cosmologically, day and night are not just evolutions in the earths rotation cycle but are also symbols for light and dark. Perhaps many of the issues we have with day and night are really issues with light and dark.

When we die we go into the light. When we die things start to get dark. Heaven is full of clouds mixed with sunlight. Hell is a dark firey cave. Stars shine bright but whats all that darkness around it? Why do we have black holes and not white holes? Is dark matter really dark?

All these notions of light/dark and day/night conflict with the real world. Our sense of time is warped when we have to do things at night we normally think are done during the day. Soldiers still have to fight at night. Doctors must still save lives at 3am. Truck drivers make better time at night.

The day is warm; the night is cold. But life isnt that easy. There are plenty of cold days in Minnesota and hot nights in Lousianna.

For the blind, the difference between day and night is a different world altogether.

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