I realize this is a tired old joke, but it was the best opening I could think of for a piece regarding the concept of “time.” In a (perhaps feeble) attempt to keep you from giving up on the opening joke, I’ve “dressed” it up a tad..literally. Honestly though, if you DID decide to give up on this piece halfway through the set-up, I couldn’t blame you…you’d be on pretty solid ground…(sigh)…but, since you’re still reading, we may as well get to it.
Two old codgers, Biff and Edgar, are sitting on a park bench. The two of them are having a conversation about baseball. They are wondering whether or not their favorite sport exists in heaven. As the chat continues, Biff turns to Edgar with an epiphany:
“The first one of us to die and go to heaven [presumably] can find out if baseball exists up there. After that, we’ll figure out a way to return and report to the other one of us if, indeed, there IS or ISN’T baseball in heaven.
Sure enough, as “luck” would have it, the very next day Edgar gets flattened by a bus. (I know what you’re thinking: “Those darn busses!”)
Nevertheless, Edgar does, in fact, go to heaven to find out there IS baseball in heaven! After a few days, Edgar returns to earth. In an effort to attract Biff’s attention, Edgar appears as a twenty-something blonde bombshell wearing a mini skirt and tight sweater. “She” quickly locates “her” old friend Biff sitting alone on his park bench.
E: Psst….Hey Biff!…Guess who!
B: Traveling Metamucil Salesgirl?
E: No, no, no….it’s me!
B: “Me” who?
B: Edgar?…as in “Edgar” who just got hit by a bus?
Biff gets a load of Edgar’s “new body” with an air of suspicion.
B: Wow…it looks like heaven IS NOT going to be what I expected.
E: Yeah, you’ve got that right!…But we’ll talk about that later. Right now I’ve got good news and bad news. Good news: there IS baseball in heaven. Bad news: tomorrow you’re the starting pitcher. [rim shot]
I know! I know! this is a stupid old joke….but stay with me. I’m going somewhere with this.
Perhaps, if you enjoy baseball as much as Edgar and Biff, you may remember a movie called “Field of Dreams.” There was a particular scene during the movie that featured a conversation between Terence Mann (played by James Earl Jones) and his buddy Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner). During this conversation, Terence Mann shares some insight with his friend Ray about the inevitable passage of time.
“The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball….”
Terrence Mann continues:
“America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again…but baseball has marked the TIME”
The last part of this monologue is kind of ironic seeing as how baseball is the only major sport without a clock. [shoulder shrug]
At any rate, as a baseball fan, I am kind of encouraged by Terence Mann’s observation that baseball is a constant presence. However, as a pessimist, I’m kind of rattled that Terence Mann symbolizes the “passage-of-time” by bringing to mind an “Army of Steamrollers.” I’m not going to lie; that creates a rather disturbing mental image.
Incidentally, you may be wondering how Biff “ended-up-on-Heaven’s-pitching-mound” so soon after his friend, Edgar, got hit by a bus. It turns out Biff’s wife (Edna) “flattened” Biff with a frying pan. Edna did this after she saw Biff in the park making time with some young floozy wearing a miniskirt and tight sweater.
(sigh) If she only knew. [eye roll]
Nevertheless, the greater point here is that “time” for both Biff and Edgar was, (in a word) “SHORT.”
You’ve probably heard it said: “Time Flies.” This is certainly true most of the time, however, there ARE indeed some instances where time just goes by WAY TOO SLOW….kind of like, well, kind of like an “Army of Steamrollers.” If you don’t believe me, think about this the next time you are standing in the shower waiting for conditioner to work.
“One minute!?!? ONE MINUTE?!?! Who in the world has that kind of time?!?!
Or how about those 60 seconds you spend in the kitchen waiting for microwave popcorn.
“Come on!..I haven’t got all minute!”
Those are certainly some SLOW minutes, but perhaps the slowest minutes I have ever experienced in life were spent sitting in school….watching the clock.
“Recess is in 6 minutes?!?…I can’t wait that long! Seriously, I think I’m going to die!”
It seemed like “time” was measured differently at school. It was as if school created some kind of weird “time warp.” This made sense seeing as how EVERYTHING ELSE at school was measured differently: distance, weight, length, height, width, liquid….whatever.
Along with that weird “time warp” crated by school…school also created a weird “MEASURE warp.”
At home, I was well versed in the STANDARD way of measuring things. We measured things with inches and miles, ounces and pounds, quarts and gallons. We also had a NORMAL clock!
School, on the other hand, measured things with something called “The Metric System” (cue ominous music). This so-called “metric system” was taught as the “better” and “easier” way of measuring things. It’s base-10 platform was hailed for “enabling easy conversion.” All you have to do is “move the decimal point!”
Teachers would tell us the rest of the world was using metric. With this backdrop, they would encourage us to embrace the “metric system” by saying: “Come on..everyone else is doing it!”
Thus began my protest.
“Oh yeah?..well if everyone else was jumping off a bridge should I do that too?”
Coincidentally, this was the day I discovered teachers don’t like it when you’re “smarter” than they are. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t tell my teachers where I thought they should stick their decimal points.
So, now that I’ve started on this rant, I have a question for all of you “pro-metric” people out there: If this “metric system” is “so much better” and “so much easier”…why don’t we have a metric clock? What’s up with this “base-60” nonsense. “60-seconds-makes-a-minute”? “60-minutes-makes-an-hour?” That’s NOT better! That’s NOT easy!
From now on we should be dealing with “10-second-minutes”, “10-minute-hours” and “10-hour-days!”
Think of how much “better” that would be! Of course, all of the digital devices at uncle Jebidiah’s house will be flashing “10:00” instead of “12:00”…but that’s incidental. Just think about how much “EASIER” it will be for the rest of us to set OUR OWN alarm clocks.
[Enter “Anti-Metric-Rube” and “Pro-Metric-Euro-Trash”]
R: I ain’t sure if I set my alarm for 7:00 A.M or 7:00 P.M.
ET: Stop being ridiculous you myopic Yankee swine! We now use “Metric Time”! There is no “A.M.” or “P.M.” “A.M.” and “P.M.” is a construct of your puny imperialist mind!
R: So….uh…I be needin’ to get out of bed when the sun come’ up. When does that happen?
ET: The sun comes up in the morning you imbecile!
Did I mention that I hate the metric system?
These days, for better or worse (mostly worse) I find myself in prison. In turn, I’ve discovered that “prison” and “school” have a “metric ton” of similarities: lots of fences, recess periods, dumb rules, uninspired staff, long lines, weapons, open-air drug markets….but instead of sitting in prison watching the clock, I sit in prison and watch the calendar!
Thankfully I’m not watching a metric calendar! Can you imagine “10-hour-days” with names like “Ones-day,” Twos-day” and “Threes-day?” Of course “10-day-weeks” would translate into “10-week-months”. Metric months would have names like “Kilo-tober” and “Hecteb-’R’uary” (don’t forget the “R”!). [eye roll]
Instead of a Chinese calendar giving us a “year-of-the-Rat” and a “year-of-the-Sheep”; the metric calendar would give us a “year-of-the-Gram” and a “year-of-the-Liter”.
LOOK! THIS IS AMERICA! I don’t want to be celebrating Thanksgiving on the 10th Fours-day of Cent-vember!
As you can see, years of school AND years of prison have warped me a bit….but this only serves to illustrate ANOTHER similarity between school and prison: They both, do indeed, have the ability to warp things….especially the concept of “time”
However, unlike the excruciatingly slow-motion “time warp” created by school; the prison “time warp” rolls by with an astonishing fast-forward pace. Six minutes in school is about equal to SIX YEARS in prison. “Time” in prison speeds by like an army of JET POWERED steamrollers.
I think the sensation of “time moving faster” in the BIG HOUSE” has something to do with the amount of “free time” created by the prison environment. Compare that to the paradoxically small amount of “free time” available in the free world, and well…that’s another topic for another day.
Regardless of how fast your life may (or may not) seem to go; whether you are in school, at work or retired; whether you are living a life of freedom or locked up in prison; whether you are an imperialist Yankee swine or a haughty piece of Euro-trash….whether you use a “standard calendar” or a “metric clock”….we are all marking time one way or the other. That “time” is, indeed, rolling by like an Army of Steamrollers (thank you Terrence, friend of Ray, fan of baseball).
We are here for a brief while, but, like Biff and Edgar, our time on earth is short.¹ One day soon, our mortal bodies will all be [flattened]²(thank you James, friend of Jesus, fan of Christianity)³
All of this is to say: If you have claimed Christ as your savior⁴ you will be able to forget about the earthly concept of “time” and experience a special kind of “time warp” as you begin to live life on God’s eternal clock.⁵
Admittedly, I AM kind of curious how they measure things in heaven. Having said that, the “Good Book” DOES state that “one day” and “a thousand days” are the same to our Lord in Heaven⁶…so, at the VERY LEAST, we know that God uses His own special kind of measuring system. Whatever system heaven uses, I just hope it’s not remotely related to the metric system.
“Welcome to Heaven sir. Here’s your harp and here’s a complementary pocket calendar too. Just remember, converting “one day” into “a thousand days” is SUPER EASY!..all you have to do is move the decimal point!
The only problem with this whole scenario is that it makes liar out of James Earl Jones and his “Terence Mann” character. Biblically speaking, the only CONSTANT creation has ever know is God⁷…NOT baseball.
Unless of course, that tired old “joke” about Biff and Edgar ISN’T a joke after all? What if there REALLY is baseball in heaven? If that’s the case, I sure hope it’s not METRIC baseball! Ten players on the field…ten inning games…The ghosts of James Earl Jones and Kevin Costner singing “Take me out to the ballgame…where it’s One…Two…TEN strikes you’re out….”
Oy vey! Ain’t nobody got TIME for that!
¹ Job 9:25
⁴John 3:16 and Romans 10:9
⁶Ps 90:10 and 2 Peter 3:8