Thought for the week – 28 April

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This week Professor Mona Siddiqui, Assistant Principal Religion and Society, reflects on what time means to us in this new normal.

The current lockdown is making me think more about how I’m spending my days, even the nature of time. For centuries the philosophical and scientific explanation of time has remained somewhat of an enigma, despite the various physical models which explain the temporal structure of the world. Aristotle, Einstein, Newton, St Augustine, spacetime and clocks have all tried to explain both the illusory and real in how we understand time.

Modernity meant choice and freedom to move around, but it also tied us to the clock. Our lives became schedules with a list of commitments and deadlines to our family, friends and work colleagues. But today under lockdown, with much of our lives indoors, time feels quite different. Despite the demands of domestic and professional work, there’s a feeling of being suspended in time, waiting for the past to return or the future to start. The uncertainty surrounding our futures has made many of us realise that time is also emotion and that right now, we’re unsure what to feel.

Even though we humans aren’t born with an innate sense of time, we learn to measure it as experiences and events, as memory and change, all of which fill our senses. Our order of events has changed and I’ve stopped turning the pages of my diary because I’m measuring my days in new ways. Not quite with the routine of coffee spoons as the speaker in T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, but with a new hope for future possibilities. We cannot let ourselves be overwhelmed by what we have lost but carry on with renewed strength and gratitude that there are so many good things still to happen.