Distilled Wisdom

Simon Altmann

A Poem by Simon Altmann

… what is time, therefore? if you do not ask me I know,
but if you want an explanation, I don’t.

St Augustine

Ancient Hindus knew better
than St Augustine: time is change
and nothing simpler to express
such a given fact than to keep
a dancer dancing, the sacred dance
of the Lord Shiva, a holy metronome
that keeps the cosmic time.

Einstein the Sage did not agree
with such a poetic image:
time is a coordinate line like
the three other space ones,
created not by a sacred dance
but extruded out of nothing at the big bang.

Perhaps the myth is right and Einstein’s
coordinate is only in transvested form
a record of rates of change,
which we humans experience as time.

When we are children, things in our mind
change much from one week to the next,
from one day to the morrow; we learn
so many words, experience so many events:
a week is a long time.

When we are old change is slow,
from one week to the next
we might learn a few words
and forget many more:
a week is so short.

By Prof. Simon Altmann