Time: A Blessing and a Curse


Time and Tide

Time. It governs our lives. We can’t store it or get it back when it is lost. Because of its value there are many sayings devoted to time. “Time and tide waits for no man;” “Do not squander time, that is the stuff life is made of” (Benjamin Franklin); “time is of the essence;” “time flies when you are having fun;” and so on. We have become obsessed with time. It is something that needs to be managed if our lives are to be ordered so we can make the most of every minute. Time is now a resource and wasting any of it must be avoided at all costs. Time is a blessing and a curse.

Our concept of time is an artificial construct. Human kind has imposed a system of measuring natural cycles from seconds to hours, days to weeks and months to years. Time is really changes that are caused by natural processes: the sun going up and down, the aging of organisms and of our planet and the universe. Things will still move on whether we look at a clock or not.


Vanitas by Edwaert Collier (circa 1640-1708) Dutch (Wikimedia Commons)

Ideas about time have long inspired writers, artists and musicians. Artists in the 17th century, a time when the plague could suddenly take away your life, painted beautiful Vanitas compositions containing reminders of human mortality. These often contained watches, hourglasses, skulls and written works associated with human vanity, as well as fruit and flowers that will eventual succumb to decay. A modern take of this idea can be found in works like Pink Floyd’s song Time (live version). It inspired me to create the vanitas depiction in this post.

Version 2

All is Vanity

The desire to control time has brought us wonderful stories of time travel such as H G Well’s Time Machine (1895), films like the Back to the Future Series and TV shows like Dr Who. I recently read David Mitchell’s imaginative book The Bone Clocks, that has a very original take on controlling time. I don’t want to give too much away but it was not about travelling through time, but the ability slow time down or speed it up. It is a fascinating and engrossing book that is well worth allowing some time to read.

From childhood we are encouraged to be involved in some activity even during our leisure hours. This probably goes back to the “idle hands are the devil’s tools” attitudes of the past. Some people think that sitting around and appearing to be doing nothing is a misuse of time and you are made to feel guilty. Time must not be wasted. But moments of apparent idleness are often thinking time when you allow your mind to wander and come up with new and different ideas. Some people like to be constantly productive but it is just as valid to work in bursts of creative energy with time for mulling over ideas in between. There is no one recipe. Worrying about time is just a pointless exercise and stops us from living in and enjoying the moment, something that is really important for creativity.


Getting things done on time is often a headache. I’ve always found a looming deadline is strong motivation and have often needed the pressure to finish a creative work. However this has worked for me because I did all the groundwork, that is, the research, preliminary designs or outlines and lots of paragraphs if written work. Everything has then come together at the last moment (by this I mean from a week to a fortnight). Without all the preparation last-minute work would be impossible to complete. I would never use this method for a woven tapestry. It is something that just takes time.


As with many words in English, “time” has other uses from just meaning the passing of the days. It is used to signify a period in history or the state of the world, as in “the good times,” “war time,” “a sign of the times,” or “behind the times.” It is also used to show repetition of an action as in “time and again” or “too many times.” We can’t seem to escape from its influence.

However, we can look at time as a blessing rather than a curse. With time you gain more experience of life, knowledge and hopefully wisdom. Life is a journey that takes time and if you are not where you want to be at the moment just be glad that times change and you can move on.


One way to time travel is to watch programs and films that are set in another period. Recently I saw the first series of Medici: Masters of Florence, starring Dustin Hoffman and Richard Madden (Game of Thrones). It has a beautiful theme song sung by Skin (Ann Deborah Dyer) called Renaissance. She has an amazing voice and wrote the beautiful lyrics.