Time Is Eternity

Time is
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“Time is:
Too slow for those who wait,
Too swift for those who fear,
Too long for those who grieve,
Too short for those who rejoice,
But for those who love –
Time is Eternity.”

-Henry van Dyke

Henry Jackson van Dyke (1852 – 1933) was an American author, clergyman, and professor of English literature who served as Minister to the Netherlands in Luxembourg during World War I. After the war, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

As a clergyman, most of his writings are of religious themes. He had written popular books about Christmas “The Other Wise Man” and “The First Christmas Tree.” He also wrote the lyrics to the hymn “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” in 1907.

The poem above is one of van Dyke’s best-loved poems also known as “For Katrina’s Sundial.” He composed the poem as an inscription on a sundial owned by his friends Spencer and Katrina Trask. It speaks about the inconstant perception of time and the permanence of love.

In science, it’s called “Time Perception” or the subjective experience of time. David Eagleman, Assistance Professor of neuroscience and psychology at Baylor College of Medicine identified the culprit of warped time perception: the amygdalae. This pair of structures in the brain processes short term memories before it assimilates them to the long-term storage. When in danger, the brain keeps as much data as possible, creating an illusion of a longer time. When one is impatiently waiting, the brain becomes too conscious of time, making it seem like an eternity.

Interestingly, time doesn’t “slip away” when one is doing new things, which explains why childhood seems more memorable and longer than adulthood. Therefore, there was truth in John Lennon’s remark “Time you enjoyed wasting is not time wasted.”

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