Time is Boring

Idiomatic expressions indicate that we find time to be an unarousing concept, in need of association with exciting things to make it more amusing.

Thermoaesthetics

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Jacob Jordaens’ “Triumph of Time.” Photo from WikiArt. Public domain.

“What a devil hast thou to do with the time of the day? Unless hours were cups of sack and minutes capons and clocks the tongues of bawds and dials the signs of leaping-houses and the blessed sun himself a fair hot wench in flame-coloured taffeta, I see no reason why thou shouldst be so superfluous to demand the time of the day.”

— Shakespeare, Henry IV (Open Source Shakespeare 2021)

The Boringness of Time

For whatever reason, perhaps because it’s not directly perceivable, or maybe because we think of it as being divided into an infinite series of perfectly regular intervals, time is evidently unexciting psychologically, similar to coldness, solidness, stasis, order, darkness, downwardness, inwardness, low pitch, small numbers of things, roundness, knowledge and concepts of form. These less exciting qualities are mixed with their perceptual opposites (heat, fluidity, dynamism, disorder, brightness, upwardness, outwardness, high pitch, large numbers, learning and ephemerality) in hundreds of idiomatic English expressions. The fact that time is as well, as demonstrated in the final section below, indicates it belongs in a mental category of less exciting things. This goes for time itself, but also its conceptual relatives like minutes, hours, months, years, moments and clocks.

Time’s boringness is fairly obvious without an examination of how it occurs linguistically. Artists, writers of fiction and poets have a habit of messing with time, like melting clocks (fluid — clock) in the famous artwork of Salvador Dalí, winged clock and hourglass symbols (upward — time) throughout history, cuckoo clocks (dyanimic — high pitch — clock), themes of time travel, time warps, wormholes, flashbacks, flash-forwards, time reversal and multiple timelines in stories, or mice running up and down a clock in the Mother Goose classic “Hickory Dickory Dock.”

According to Wikipedia, the expression “time flies,” which mixes time with exciting dynamism and upwardness, originated in the Latin poem Georgics by Virgil, which was probably published…

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Thermoaesthetics

A concept of aesthetic complexity based on universal animal preferences for mixtures of simple, more and less exciting physical and psychological opposites.