If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Harry S. Truman, 1884-1972
Both naming and numbering-setting identity and scope-are an essential part of what makes us human.
Kirsten Lippincott, The story of time-book/catalogue to accompany the exhibition held at the Queen's House, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, 1 December 1999-24 September 2000; Merill Holbertson Publishers Ltd in association with the National Maritime Museum
Kirsten Lippincott was talking about people's attempts to understand and measure time in the context of a fascinating exhibition devoted to this endeavour. Perhaps we should not be surprised to discover, given the complexities of Einstein's space-time continuum, that time is not quite the simple matter of a linear progression from birth to death, from generation to generation, and so on, that it might at first appear to be. Moreover, people's conceptions of time have varied across the ages and according to their culture. However, one of the things which caught my interest in both The Story of Time exhibition and book, was the role of naming and measurement in mythology, theology, philosophy, and the history of ideas. For what else are we doing when we attempt to assess human characteristics, but trying to identify and name what these characteristics are and then to measure the extent to which any one person possesses them?
The idea of measurement seems to come from deep in our psyche. According to Lippincott, in the great religions which grew up around the Mediterranean, "God the Creator" was an engineer-an architect who creates something tangible from nothing but his own ideas. The Prophet Isaiah (40:12), asks, "Who was it that measured the water of the sea in the hollow of his hand and calculated the dimensions of the heavens, gauged the whole of the earth to the bushel, weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?" This rational vision of creation maybe dates back to Pythogoras and beyond, and for some, all this was anathema. Plato created the belief