Time in the Islamic Tradition

As we try to understand time during this phase of our course by drawing on different sciences and traditions, I asked myself, as a person from the Islamic tradition, “What is time according to the Islamic Tradition?” My goal in this post and maybe the next one is to write a brief account whereby we can have a sense of the concept of time in the Islamic tradition. I benefited from the works of a Muslim scholar named Bediuzzaman Said Nursi during my research about time in the Islamic tradition.
Time is defined with a striking metaphor in Said Nursi’s work called “The Words”. He likens time to a notebook, a page, a parchemin, on which the creation is written. God, with His power, wisdom and knowledge, writes the creation on the page of time. Here, not only the notebook, but also the ink is likened to time. I leave you to consider the implications and impressions of this metaphor, but what struck me most here is the intrinsic relationship between time and existence. Without notebook, there is no writing! The question that we had asked “what if time stops everywhere”, from this perspective, becomes unanswerable. Without time, we stop being written, being created and only God knows what happens in this incident. Said Nursi also informs us of a complete book that was already written. Time that is now being written will be an identical book to this complete book. In other words, the complete book refers to the idea of destiny and “All-Knowing” attribute of God.
Time is also a relative concept in the Islamic tradition. However, what is different in this relativity is the fact that a center or a framework is established and God calls humans to adapt to this framework. In other words, even though one can measure and experience time on earth very differently, God wants from Muslims to act in accordance with a specific framework of time. The calendar of moon is used, and many acts of worship have a special time on the calendar. It is claimed that different levels of time in our universe resonate with each other through this framework, and humans partake in the harmony of the universe when they abide by the calendar and rules prescribed for them.
The last point that I would like to share in this post with regard to time in the Islamic tradition is the emphasis on reason, memory, intelligence, soul and a person’s deeds as the crucial factors determining one’s experience of time. For instance, it is claimed that a person who has strengthened his/her soul through good deeds can experience time much more fruitfully and productively. His or her five minutes might become equal to five hours of a normal person. Such instances and examples are narrated in many hagiographical accounts in the Islamic tradition. For example, a Muslim scholar from the 8th century AC claimed to have done an incredible amount of scholarly work ( having read thousands of pages) in one night.

Time and Well-Being

I am currently taking a class this semester called “The Psychology of Personal Well-Being: How to Live a Happy Life,” and some of the readings made me think about just how much time I spend in a day having my mind wander, constantly dwelling on the past, and worrying about the future. I learned that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind (Killingsworth & Gilbert 2010). Fortunately, I also learned that I can train my mind not to wander through meditation and really focus on what I am doing without thinking about something else. My professor, Fr. David Marcotte, taught us that twenty minutes of mindfulness meditation a day can help reduce stress, anxiety, anger, and depression. Furthermore, thirty minutes of meditation can help build a stronger immune system and reduce blood pressure. All of this sounds great but when I first learned about it, I thought to myself, “I don’t have time to just sit here and meditate when I could be doing something else.” I realized then that this was my problem and that I rarely dedicate any time to my psychological needs and my well-being. Twenty or thirty minutes initially sounded a lot but it’s actually not compared to the hours I’ve spent overthinking. 

From the moment I wake up until the moment I fall asleep, it seems as though I am consumed with endless thought and activity. When I decide to take a break, I sometimes feel guilty because I think to myself that I could be using this time to catch up on assignments or do something else that is more productive. I used to think that simply sitting around and not doing anything would be wasting time, but I have come to realize that it is important to take some time to relax, meditate, clear my mind, and unwind. It is okay to take a break and focus on myself while working towards my happiness and well-being. If I do not take care of myself then I would not be able to live up to my true potential and be the best that I can be. One of my goals this semester is to set some time aside every week to meditate and not think of it as wasting time but rather, actually using it wisely to help myself start living a happier life filled with peace and calmness. I would be investing time in myself, my health, and my happiness. 

According to Augustine in Confessions, there is “a present of things past, a present of things present, and a present of things to come” (246). The past does not exist anymore and the future has yet to exist so why do I spend so much time in the present worrying about things that have already happened or things that have not even happened yet when I should be focusing on the here and now? I always try to remind myself not to regret or expect because what matters is this instant which I am living in. Even if I regret something, it is not going to change what has already happened but I can use that as a lesson moving forward. I also try not to expect the worse either because that will only bring me fear and anxiety. It is not healthy for me to constantly beat myself up over what I could have done differently or worry about every little thing that could go wrong. Why continue wasting my time stressing over situations that are out of my control? Sometimes my mind wanders and I start thinking about different things that I wish I was doing instead, but I am now striving to refocus my attention on the present moment and try to enjoy it. I am glad that I am taking class on time, as well as a class on well-being, because I hope to change the way I spend my time and be able to make better decisions that will help me grow as a person from here on out.  

I’ve attached a link to the research article if anyone is interested:  http://www.danielgilbert.com/KILLINGSWORTH%20&%20GILBERT%20(2010).pdf

On Deadline


By Aislinn Keely

New York City has a rich journalistic tradition. People across the globe read the front page of The Times, which has become the world’s journal of record rather than just New York’s. The nation looks towards the predictions of The Wall Street Journal. However, the city’s roots are in local storytelling. New York would lose its character without its New York Post, New York Daily News and dollar tabloids. The city has felt the loss of local publications like Gothamist and DNAInfo. New York’s local coverage both marks and preserves the passage of time in a city that is as much a community as it is a center for the world.

This weekend, I curled up on a friend’s couch and watched HBO’s documentary “Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists.” It was a magnificent act of storytelling about storytellers, and it led me down two lines of questioning: what is the relationship between localized storytelling and timekeeping, and what does it mean to live a life on deadline? The documentary asks and answers this through an exploration of city journalists Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill. Both men wrote columns for a variety of publications through tumultuous times.

Image result for jimmy breslin and pete hamill
Pete Hamill (left) and Jimmy Breslin (right) both wrote columns for city publications.

Breslin and Hamill were both authorities on the narrative of major historical events. Hamill’s column shaped the understanding of the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Breslin was heralded for his columns on the John F. Kennedy assassination, which included telling the story of the surgeon who couldn’t save JFK and the man who dug the president’s grave. The latter column is known by its title “It’s An Honor.” He would win the Pulitzer for that story, and it remains central to the history of the nation’s response to the tragedy.

Breslin would also cover issues of police brutality in the city, the crime of the 80s and the city’s pack mentality in response. He wrote columns critiquing lawmakers and investigating organized crime. His writing is an authority of New York history. Looking at Breslin’s portfolio is a snapshot of the city from 1960 up to the early 2000s.

However, it’s important to note that Breslin had opinions. He had a voice and he wasn’t afraid to use it. This meant he incited change, but it also casts doubt on the objectivity of his record of New York. In his columns, we see New York as Breslin and the subjects he chose to quote saw it. They are a handful of perspectives in a city of millions.

The records we have of that time are bound to be tainted by the people who wrote them. They are written mostly by white men, but these men were also very much entrenched in the communities they wrote about. The journalism of this era lacked college degrees, and was marked by street knowledge. Their sources were relationships cultivated from years of being active within their local communities. While our journals of record should contain as many diverse voices as possible in order to get the truest snapshot of a time, I found it admirable and interesting that the journalism of this time was created by people of a community covering that community.

In addition to shedding light on who is keeping the records of our communities, the documentary also touched on what it means to live a life on deadline. Hamill and Breslin lived against a deadline, bound to deliver a story regardless of what happened that news cycle. Reporters must be consumed by their own temporality, I thought. They live their lives racing to hit a buzzer only to feel the clock counting down again moments after they’ve hit it.

On one hand, this is freeing. Life moves on. Some columns are bad. Some are magnificent. The only thing that should weigh on one’s mind is the next deadline, not a fictitious win/loss record. In the New York Times obituary for Breslin, Mario Cuomo touched on Breslin’s consistency:

“Think of it: He still works every day,” former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, a close friend who died in 2015, wrote in remarks prepared for a 2009 celebration of Mr. Breslin. “Writing, or thinking about writing, and he has done it for 60 years, nearly 22,000 days and nights — except for the short hiatus when doctors were forced to drill a hole in his head to let out of his congested brain some of his unused lines. Then he wrote a book about it!”

Living on deadline creates a reason to get up and give it your all each day. It frees you from both resting on your laurels and getting stuck in failure. However, it can also undercut the importance of stopping and living in one moment. Breaks should be part of life, but living on deadline can harden one to them. Breslin famously told his son to get out of bed the morning after they laid wife and mother Rosemary to rest. “Get the —- up. The clock doesn’t stop,” Breslin said. Perhaps those on deadline are also condemned to be consumed by their own temporality, and plagued by the temporality of others.

A collection and summary of a few of Breslin’s most famous columns can be found here: https://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/back-jimmy-breslin-best-columns-article-1.3002680

Input vs Output of Time

I have the next thirteen to fifteen years of my life planned out; they can be arranged in a sequential list in which each box must be checked off in order to proceed to the subsequent step.

◻Bachelor’s degree: four years. During this time, take certain number of credit hours in the sciences, study two hours at the very least for every hour spent in a science class, volunteer, do research, do clinical work under the supervision of a physician, prepare for MCAT, do extracurriculars that make you stand out from every other pre-med applicant who completed all of the previous steps listed, apply to medical schools.

◻Upon (not improbable) rejection from medical schools: option one: two or more years of a post-baccalaureate program to spend time redoing the same classes you spend four years working on in the past.

◻Option two (instead of or in addition to option one): Gap year (fill this time with meaningful research or clinical research to show improvement as an applicant)

◻Medical School: four years. During this time, study approximately seven hours each day; double this time to fourteen hours a day in preparation for the STEP exam.

◻Residency: three to five years.

◻Fellowship: one year.

Is spending this much of my life in school and studying a complete waste of time? Couldn’t I be using more of the time I have right now to help people if this is my overall end goal? Sometimes I wonder this, especially after spending so much time studying for an exam, only to receive a disappointing grade that before my eyes appears to degrade the likelihood of future events that must occur in order for me to become a physician.

Although I sometimes feel discouraged and trapped in such a seemingly immutable, mechanical sequence of events, I will be liberated from this sort of “time vacuum” when I am finally able to dedicate my time more fully to medical service to patients: in meaningful interactions with vulnerable people who seek support; in lessening pain, discomfort, and worry; in improving sometimes the length, but more often and arguably more importantly the quality of the time people have in their lives.

The input of time towards my studies now and throughout the next several years seems small and insignificant compared to its inevitable reward.

Biological vs Mechanical Time and Resolutions

On the first of every month, I like to set aside time to reflect on what has happened in the prior month and set some intentions and goals for the next month. I have always been a big fan of resolutions (especially new year’s) and I try my very best to stick to them. Just before the new year, I was talking to one of my aunts about new year’s resolutions and she told me that she likes thinking of her resolution restarting every Monday.  So, within a span of a week, she will try to maintain her resolution. If she missteps one week, she absolves herself of this guilt by starting with a clean slate for the next week.  By looking at it this way, the pressure and guilt of trying to keep a new habit up for a whole year lessens.  I thought this was a really interesting take on the concept of a new year’s resolution.

            On a different note, I was really interested in our class conversation of biological and mechanical time on Monday. When Professor Gribetz first asked us which time we would prefer to live by, I immediately decided on biological time. I think that it would be really nice to structure our schedules depending on what our bodies are telling us.  In really busy weeks, when I find my routine to be falling apart and I am over-tired and rushing, I am always conscious of the strain that I am putting on my body.  I am grateful to be in good health and am aware that we are each only given one body to last us a lifetime.  I think that if I could solely follow biological time, my body would thank me for it.  But, I know how much I rely on the structure that I get from mechanical time, which is something that would be hard to give up.  

I recognize that my cognizance of the changing weeks and months helps me to structure each aspect of my life and allows me a schedule and routine.  But, although this stability and structure is comforting in a sense, it can also feel restrictive, which is why biological time seems so appealing to me.  I guess, overall, I value the structure that mechanical time gives me and how I can use it to define goals and habits for me. But, I sense that it would probably be better for my overall health and happiness to follow only biological time. Although the free-falling effect of the lack of structure would probably scare me for a bit, I think that I would grow to enjoy biological time.   

The Trees

I stare out my back window at the trees in the yard. Their bark is almost invisible now under a thick blanket of leafy vines—an invasive species, a hostile invader. They are old, like many of the trees around my house, and they have been living there far longer than I. They stand five in a line, twisting high into the air like gnarled, arthritic fingers. The skimpy boughs of dark green pines contrast the bright green leaves of the vines. The trees are at once overgrown and sparse. The vines wrap around their trunks like boa constrictors around their prey. They are dying.

Last year when a bad storm hit, a massive branch—really the size of a tree itself—fell from the neighbor’s yard into ours, crushing the pool filter and part of the garage. My mother loudly foretells that it will happen again, that any one of these days one of our trees will come crashing down, taking something with it. She theorizes; what will it be this time, pool furniture, a car, “god forbid,” she says, “a person?” And so, the trees stand like dominoes anticipating the day some cosmic hand will give them a push. We are powerless to stop it, they aren’t technically our trees, they’re the neighbors, so all we can do is wait.  It’s only a technicality to me, in my memory, they are mine, the consistent vista of my childhood. I’ve watched my home change; I’ve watched the wooden green playset (a million splinters waiting to happen) get dismantled, its former spot dug out and replaced with the blue shimmer of the pool; I’ve watched the decorations go up and go down for graduations, baby showers, family gatherings; I’ve watched my home grow, and I’ve watched it shrink; but, through it all I’ve watched the trees stay the same. Each year maybe some fewer needles and more vines, but in my mind, they’ve stayed the same. Only now that I’m older have I truly realized; they are dying.

A rust-colored carpet of dead needles covers the ground. Big bunches of them clog the filter. Stragglers cling to the dogs’ fur as they rush inside. They’re dying faster now, there seems to be more vine than tree, and each day more blue is visible behind the dark green canopy. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but as I look out the window I know the sight of these balding pines depresses me. When I was a pretentious and angry high-schooler I saw the trees as a metaphor: the vines were the overbearing tendencies of my family, I was the tree struggling against them—suffocating slowly but surely. Now that I’m a pretentious and depressed college student the metaphor has changed. I still am the trees—at least part of me still is. They are a symbol of my childhood. As I played in the backyard that felt so much like my own boundless kingdom, they were the sentinels standing over me, protecting me from the world outside, the serious world, the adult world. And now they’re dying, falling to the ground one day at a time. And so my childhood dies day by day. With each class credit earned, each internship applied for, each rent check signed, I become less and less of a kid, and it terrifies me. I am afraid of my life as a child coming to an end. I am afraid of the encroachment of the real world’s suffocating vines. I am afraid for the day the trees finally fall. But I have no reason to be afraid. When one tree falls another takes its place. Nature is cyclical, death simply makes room for life. When a tree falls in the forest it becomes a home for millions of tiny organisms, it becomes the incubator for more life. And so as my childhood dies it will provide the sustenance for my new life, my life as an adult. Here I am, staring out the window and the trees are still standing tall. One day they will die but for now, they are living.  

What is a lifetime?

            Today marks the four-year anniversary of the death of my coach and friend, Laura Tebo. Often, the thought of death brings sadness; however, today I am overwhelmed with gratitude- gratitude for the fact that I was lucky enough to know Laura. Timing is everything. This world has existed for some billions of years, and I had the great fortune of crossing paths with her. While the quantity of our time was short, we filled it with great quality. The pain of her loss is immense, but it does not outweigh the ways she changed my life for the better. In our short time together, she taught me more about life and myself than I could learn from any book or any collection of people over any large amount of time.

With that being said, I must admit I’ve never felt more alone and betrayed than I felt at 3:33 p.m. on Sunday 1 February 2015. On that day, when my coach, Laura Tebo, left this earth, a chapter in my life was closed with a dreadful, petrifying, and cruel period. I lost my coach, mentor, inspiration, and best friend all in one day. Whenever I needed advice on a difficult situation or just needed a good, long laugh I would instantly talk to Laura. Finding a person who I can trust wholeheartedly in this world is rare, and I lost my person to the heartless grip of terminal cancer. Laura had cancer for many years and I had to watch her fight a heroic battle against it. Watching someone I loved dearly feel ugly and broken, when all I saw was a beautifully strong woman, was the hardest part of my life.

Towards the end, I watched her time slowly tick away. Time she once spent coaching her kids or riding her horses was now spent in a hospital bed that was conveniently moved to her home. 43 years. She is the best person I have ever met and she only got 43 years. What, then, can be used to measure the success of a lifetime? I would argue based on experience that it is the impact of your years that measures your greatness. Laura may not have had a broad impact on the world, but she certainly had a deep impact on her family and friends. I carry so many of Laura’s life lessons that can never be replaced. This woman, who I was lucky enough to call my mentor and friend, taught me to be brave and fight for what you believe in, despite what other people tell you or whatever hardships life may throw at you.

Laura once told me in one of her signature letters that “some times it’s not about the happy ending. Maybe it’s about the story instead.” She was right. Our story did not get the fairytale ending that most people hope for. However, we undoubtedly received an extraordinary tale. To honor my friend, I live each day attempting to portray the qualities she tried to instill in me. I strive to live a life of bravery, strength, and honor. I will never forget my incredible story with Laura Tebo, and it would be a disgrace to lock her up in our chapters that were so few and cut short. So, I’ll let her live on through my actions until my author writes “THE END” on the bottom of my pages.

Time and the Gym

When I am at the gym especially on my heavy leg days it feels as if time is flying by. I can be at the gym for what feels like 20 minutes but in realty is closer to 2 hours. For me this is especially the case on heavy leg day, which is typically Monday.

For myself this is a fun way to start my week and make sure my week begins the right way. Squatting is my favorite exercise in the gym and is a perfect metaphor for life. When something pushes you down you have one of two options; fall down with it, or push back and overcome the adversity.

Pictured is my weightlifting belt and the weight I was squatting this past Monday in the gym. My goal is to be able to keep pushing more weight and get stronger, while also having fun doing so.

Controlling Time Through Editing

Devin Dyer

One of the few constants in my life is my love of film. There is something inherent in the medium that resonates with me like no other type of art can. I’ve known for most of my life that I want to be a filmmaker, and so I’ve studied how films are made all this time. What intimidates me the most about the filmmaking process is editing. To me, editing is the most crucial factor in making or breaking a movie. But, editing is strange; people always say that when it’s done right, you won’t even notice it. Unlike cinematography, acting, or sound design, editing doesn’t draw attention to itself as a rule.

Editing should feel natural—but, by natural I don’t mean realistic, I mean right; a film’s editing should feel right. The pace of each scene, the transitions from one to another, the rhythm of a conversation: so many small scenarios present in every film that need to be edited just right for the movie to be genuinely great, and it’s all that which scares me. How do you create a natural sense of how things should be on screen? How do you learn to feel what is right? The answer is time.

The heart of editing is the manipulation of time. With editing, you can turn a 30 minute morning routine into 30 seconds. With editing, you can draw a moment out and let the audience ruminate on it. With editing, you can subtly undo an audience’s sense of “real time.” Merely knowing how long something should be onscreen is nearly half the battle of editing. The other half is figuring out new ways to bend time to your will; to make a joke land the right way; to make the audience jump out of their seats; to make them swoon with infatuation; all of it comes down to a powerful manipulation of time.

If any of this interests you, or if you want to hear someone speak much more eloquently on this than I can here’s a great video.

My Take on Einstein’s Dreams

By Kavita Kumari

In Alan Lightman’s novel entitled Einstein’s Dreams, Albert Einstein dreams multiple stories while working on his theory of relativity. Throughout the novel, Einstein imagines possible worlds that center on time and how people interact with each other.

While reading the novel, there does not seem to be a main character. Lightman refers to people in Einstein’s dreams without using names. Instead, he refers to them using terms like “the man,” “the shopkeeper,” “the woman,” or “the children.” This detail is interesting because Einstein could be dreaming either the same or different people in different worlds. He focuses on how these people interact with each other in different times. In a sense, each person can be considered a main character. As he says, “For, miraculously, a barrister, a nurse, a baker can make a world in either time, but not in both times. Each time is true, but the truths are not the same” (Lightman 21).

Throughout the novel, Einstein comments on how people live their lives. As he states, “If a person holds no ambitions in this world, he suffers unknowingly. If a person holds ambitions, he suffers knowingly, but very slowly” (Lightman 36). Time does not seem to change at all; rather, people are the ones who change in response to time. Some people set goals for themselves, and other people do not look forward to anything. Einstein also points out that people suffer in their lives. No matter the time in the world, people experience similar events and emotions.

In the epilogue, the reader returns to the beginning of the novel, and Einstein finishes his paper on the theory of relativity. It’s interesting that the reader returns to where the novel starts because it suggests that time has passed from when Einstein enters the office to when he hands in his paper. The reader passes stories dating many months before returning to the beginning. Also, the ending suggests that time also influences Einstein. After giving his paper to the typist at “six minutes past eight,” Einstein “feels empty” (Lightman 140).

In Einstein’s Dreams, Alan Lightman centers the novel on the concept of time. From the moment Einstein enters his office, the months of his dreams, and the dreams themselves to the end of the novel, time constantly influences people and how they live their lives.