Time, the Familiar Stranger

Time, the Familiar Stranger

Time, the Familiar Stranger

Time, the Familiar Stranger


J. T. Fraser is the founder of the International Society for the Study of Time, and the author or co-editor of at least nine volumes concerning, in one way or another, the "meaning of time". The present volume is addressed to general readers. It is, like so much of Fraser's work, a diffuse miscellanya potpourri of things that can be said with graceful, recondite humanism about the elusive object of the author's obsession. Attractively printed, with fifty illustrations, a "glossary" (seven entries), and ten pages of (wildly diverse) bibliographic suggestions. (NW) Annotation(c) 2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)


Homo sapiens—man the thinker—responded to his discovery of passing and time by attempting to overcome the finality of death. He, she, and they created languages to help their societies survive the individual finity of their members. Using language they created religions, philosophies, and the magic of the recited and written word, so as to lessen the anxiety conferred upon them by the discovery of time. All this happened in Chapter 1.

This chapter is about Homo faber—man the tinker—alter ego by birth to his wisdom-seeking self. He put his intuitive, gut knowledge of time in the service of daily existence. He learned how to count and invented many means of time reckoning: clocks, calendars, chronologies, and cosmologies. By means of such metaphysical bookkeeping, he helped put order into and find order in human life and the world at large.

The Stuff that Clocks Are Made Of

To measure anything is to make a comparison and express the results in number: my driveway is 100 times as long as my meterstick. the meterstick does not make the comparison; I am the one who does. the meterstick simply is. in contrast, a clock always does something: it ticks, hums, strikes, blinks, points; it is said to measure time. It, and presumably not me, must be continuously comparing itself with something and expressing the results of its findings in number: 2:35 a.m. To what does the clock compare itself when it measures time?

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