A Time to Talk About Our “Times”

For a long time, I’ve found the study of time—specifically, how we perceive its passing, and how it’s connected to our biological and circadian rhythms—fascinating.

Research rolls on, but it’s quite clear that, whether you’re a morning person, night person, or anywhere in between—a lark, an owl, a “third bird,” of whatever—your preference is not just your preference. It’s far more hard-wired biologically than we’d ever dreamed before this subject was seriously studied.

Oh, you can, and must, force yourself to roll out early, work late, or do whatever your employment or family obligations require, and some factors such as your age and health (of course) will also affect this a bit. The research, for example, is abundantly clear that earlier school starting times for all kids, and especially teenagers, are a terrible idea if you want them to be capable of learning anything. (And “capable” is the right word.)

Yes, you’ll do what you must do—you are a conscientious and responsible person— but the fact is, you’ll never be truly “in the zone” (your best time of productivity, efficiency, and creativity) in the morning if you’re an owl or at night if you’re a lark. And, though this analogy might be a bit overdone (but it might not be, and if it is, it’s very little past the mark), a lark has about as much chance of effectively becoming an owl as a right-handed person has of becoming a left-handed person.

Interestingly enough, since this is biologically wired, genealogical and family studies are also fascinating. You don’t have to be a scientist to look at your own family, and your extended family and the predecessors you knew well, to “plot” where on the chrono-biological continuum (I may have butchered that description, but you know what I mean) each member falls and the various folks in the family who are “birds of a feather.” Heredity is most definitely and seriously involved.

Already interested in this topic, I was glad to find that when I read Claudia Hammond’s Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception, I’d boarded a train. The next stop was Till Roenneberg’s Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired. Then came Daniel Pink’s When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. And I hope not “finally” as in a caboose or a final stop, but a bit related and fun, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, by Mason Currey. I love trains!

A side point: Those are all non-fiction books. Fine. But I hope it’s also clear that one of the best ways to make our journey through this world worthwhile—and not to let it drive us crazy—is to hop on some book-trains (great fiction and stories) that take us around this world, out of this world, and, most of all, out of ourselves. Why in the world would we want to stay always trapped in our little part of the world and stuck in our own little heads when wonderful journeys are ready to open up all around us as we simply open a book?

Garrison Keillor is right when he says, “One reads books in order to gain the privilege of living more than one life. People who don’t read are trapped in a mine shaft, even if they think the sun is shining.”

Speaking of time—as we recently were—the wise writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that “there is a time for everything, a season for every matter under heaven,” and he lists a bunch of the “times” of our lives. He doesn’t mention “a time to read,” but, as a writer, I’m quite certain he takes that for granted.

One thing I think is sure: Our Creator has the times of our lives—whether we’re larks, owls, or any other bird in between—well in hand. And this thought is worth pondering: God is able to use and redeem all of “the times” of those who trust him.

If this is a rotten column, I offer this excuse: I wrote it in the morning.

You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!

Copyright 2022 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Leave a comment