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《Lessons for Elementary Schools (5)》 __ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

Your Time Is Mine

“Grandpa, do you always have time?”

“Yes dear, I always have time for you. My time belongs to you.”

“How come my Dad says he has no time? He is always in a hurry, walking quickly and driving fast.”

“Well, he uses his time to work and earn money, so you and me I and your parents can have a good life, like eating well, living in a neat house, and talking about things, feelings, questions and school.”

“Grandpa, were you like my Dad too?”

“Yes dear, but not exactly. Things have changes. Even time has changed.”

“But Mr. Shaw told us today in class that everything changed, but time is eternal, no change ever.”

"Well, he is right too. He may be talking about what is written in books, by philosophers, physicists, and other scholars. But, time dose does change in life.”

"How can that be?” Nancy is perturbed, looking at her grandpa with bemused eyes.

“Let me tell you my story.” Grandpa goes on slowly. “When I was your age living in my Dad’s village in south China, people rose early in the morning when they heard the crowing of roosters. They went to work in the fields. Later in the day when the sun began to set, they went home and cooked rice for dinner, bathed, and went to bed again.”

“You mean they did not watch the clock? What if the rooster forgot to crow?”

“The rooster always crows at dawn dear. That was how time was unchanging in Nature. As for the clock, we did not have one. One rich family in the village did have a clock. But the owner forgot to wind the gears to power the pendulum to mark time. The clock stopped, and there was no way to set the time again.”

“Why did you not use an electric clock?”

“We had no electricity then. In fact, even today, there are many places around the globe that have no electricity. But people can be happy. And we were happy. We marked the days and months with our Luna Calendar. It also showed the festivals for planting and harvesting, along with the seasons.”

“So it was a different world then?”

“Indeed it was. Actually, the world has been changing so much so fast that it was very different ten years ago, when you were born. But, people don’t change much, so the changing world challenges people in many ways. For example, your Dad was not rushing as much as he dose does today.”

“Yes, I remember when I was in kindergarten, Dad always had breakfast with us. Now, he mostly goes out without breakfast. Grandpa, why is it that you are not changing? Is change not a good thing?”

“Well, dear, Grandpa is not changing because I choose not to, and because I am happy with the conditions of my life. But, these conditions change too, like I did not have you before, and I have you now. So, some changes are good.”

“Can I do what you do, Grandpa?”

“Yes you can, dear. In fact, you are happy and sure of yourself. That is your way of not changing. But, you are learning every day, and learning is change.”

“Today in school, Mr. Shaw was showing us a lot of things about time. He first told us about Confucius standing on the bank of a river one day, about 3000 years ago. He murmured as he watched the flowing river: ‘How the water flows, not minding the difference of days and nights’.

“Did Mr. Shaw tell you the meaning of that Confucian murmur?” Grandpa asks.

“Yes he did. He said, Confucius was saying that time was running like water, continuous and unchanging. But, days and nights which affect human lives, do change every 24 hours. And these hours were human creations.”

“How lucky you are to have a thoughtful teacher like Mr. Shaw. I wish I could be in class with you.”

“Why don’t you, Grandpa? You can come to school with me. I’ll ask Mr. Shaw to let us in”

“Well, that’s very nice. But, I’ll rather sit here to learn from you for now. Tell me what else he showed you.”

“He also brought this book The River of Time to show us. It is written by Igor Novikov just before all of us in class were born. Professor Novikov is a very learned man who grew up in a poor farm in Poland. He became interested in celestial physics and time when his grandma told him many stories about the moon and stars, all had names and characters. He left his homeland after she lost all basic freedoms and self rule, and he became a full professor at the Copenhagen University. Mr. Shaw told us that in his book the professor told us that in the 21st Century, physicists began to suspect that time could be changed by fast motions in space. For example, the faster a car goes the shorter is the time required to reach the destination.”

“Do you guys understand what Mr. Shaw said?”

“Yes we do, in the speedy car and the travel time bit. We understood that time is always tied with something. But we did not understand what physicist s do and why they spend so much time and effort to control time and speed. They seemed more interested in ideas and abstract concepts than the use of time. Mr. Shaw told us that in his book the professor said that mystery is the most interesting thing to study. Do you agree with him, Grandpa?”

“Well. I don’t know as much as Mr. Shaw or the professor. So, I cannot say if I agree with them or not. But, I do agree that time is always tied with something. For example, it is certainly related to life and death. I know that you have more time than I do, because I do not have too many years to live before I die.”

“You don’t die, Grandpa. You will always live.”

“Thanks dear. I believe in you that I will always live in your heart. That shows another interesting thing about time. It shows that time is not what it is by itself, but rather, it is what human beings think, know, belief, or regard it to be. This goes back to my boyhood experience of not living by the clock. We could make our days long or short, and we were never early or late. We simply act or feel like we were the master of time.”

“That is really neat, Grandpa. I will always remember what you have said, and be the master of my time. Oh, one thing more, Mr. Shaw also showed us a poem by Marina Katys, a Polish poet. We all like it. Here are some lines:

I tell myself time slips through my fingers like water
It stays everywhere not its own master
In words and music and laughter
Each person can step into the same river only once
And never finds its mysterious source
Where time curls inside a cocoon tiny
In sound sleep lying on the breathing chest of eternity

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