What's Tony Thinking

Time and Other Mysteries


Are you about adjusted to Standard Time again? It seems the semi-annual reset is more of a irritant and kerfuffle than it used to be. At least it feels that way to me. Living in Seattle, at latitude 47, makes a difference. We’re coming into the long, dark nights now.

Part of our irritation with these periodic time changes is probably the pandemic. We’re just all kind of on edge anyhow. Another part of it may be that we now have so many digital devices that require complicated resets of their clocks.

Linda perches over our oven like the captain of a submarine at the control panel trying to get it all sorted out. My job is the resetting the clocks in the cars, which usually requires paging through the owner’s manual and pushing a series of buttons and dials.

Resetting an old analog style watch was no big deal. Pull out the stem, move the hands on the dial. All the computerized digital stuff is more complex. For the first day or two after a time change, we seem to have different clocks with different times, which is itself disorienting.

Our four-year-old granddaughter took the time change differently. She was prompted to philosophical inquiry. She asked her Mom, “What is time?” “Can we change time?” And, “What happens when there are no more days?” Wow. What amazing questions.

That was my first thought when I heard them. Tell her what wonderful questions those are. Also clues me in as to why colleges don’t admit four-year-olds. The questions they ask are too big, too wondrous.

I suppose there are a variety of different kinds of responses that can be made to such queries. A physicist might say one thing. A theologian another.

My own experience with kids asking such questions is they don’t want a long or complex answer, the kind one might try on a teenager or adult. Something brief and simple.

My run at the “end of days” question would be something like this — before there were any days or nights, there was God, who created day and night (a day and a night make up one day in the Bible). God created this order as a way of expressing his love for us. Order is good. Better than chaos. However, if there are no more days, God will still be. And God will still love us.

I’ve always found a parent’s instinctive response when a child has a bad dream to be sort of amazing and worth pondering. A child awakes from a bad dream, crying, shaken. Parents, by and large, take the child in their arms and say some version of, “It’s all right. Everything’s okay.”

That, I’ve thought, is a fairly wondrous statement of faith. “It’s all right. Everything’s okay.” It is a parent’s job to help their child have a sense of basic trust, as opposed to basic distrust. So we voice our own trust to them.

While the amazing questions children ask, particularly at ages 4 and 5, need to be and deserve to be taken seriously, at least some of our answers are less science and more faith. At the end of days, should that happen, just as at the end of every day, God is still God. God still loves us. God is faithful.

And in some wild and mysterious sense, “It’s all right. Everything is okay.”

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