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Planktons in the Sea: A Few Questions Regarding the Qualities of Time


To ask a human being to account for time is not very different from asking a floating fragment of plankton to account for the ocean. How does the plankton bank the ocean?

What is time?
What is the time?
The time is of your choosing.
The time is not of your choosing.
The time is out of joint.
The time has come.
The time needs changing.
The time has gone.
The time has come and gone.
The time has flown.
The time is not convenient.
The time is at hand.
The time has been spent well.
The time has been wasted.
The time is awkward.
The time is ripe.
The time has passed so swiftly.
The time is now.
What is the time?

We say “my time,” “your time,” but how do we tie these models of personhood, of being (me, you, us) to the medium within which all these me’s and you’s and us’s all swim in? Heidegger says, “Being and time determine each other reciprocally, but in such a manner that neither can the former—Being—be addressed as something temporal nor can the latter—time—be addressed as a being.”

In Confessions, St. Augustine begins his discourse on time by confessing, “What then is time? Provided that no one asks me, I know. If I want to explain it to an inquirer, I do not know.” In our effort to account for time, we will confess to our confusions.

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