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Social Meaning of Time |

Doctoring to the Music of Time

Richard V. Lee, MD
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From State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York.

Requests for Reprints: Richard V. Lee, MD, 7664 East Quaker Road, Orchard Park, NY 14127. For reprint orders in quantities exceeding 100, please contact the Reprints Coordinator; phone, 215-351-2657; e-mail, reprints@mail.acponline.org.

Ann Intern Med. 2000;132(1):11-17. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-132-1-200001040-00003
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The concept of time is a product of the quest for and identification of order, a recognition that events occur in meaningful sequences. Time sense, experiencing the passage of time, seems to be a universal attribute of Homo sapiens. Organizing populations or communities according to time is a special attribute that separates the human from the nonhuman animal. Marking time and making calendars are perhaps the most ancient of learned sciences.



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Figure 1.
The ancient Taoist representation of yin and yang.

Yin and yang are the complementary opposites of the universe: male and female, sun and moon, day and night, hot and cold, wet and dry, and so forth. The concept corresponds to and is contemporaneous with the binary beliefs of Ormuzd and Ahriman of the Zoroastrians, Osiris and Isis of the Egyptians, and the even and the odd of Pythagoras. The universe with its dual forces is a macrocosm; human beings are microcosms, little universes.

Grahic Jump Location
Grahic Jump Location
Figure 2.
In metaphorical metaphysics, the contents of the universe and the body were assigned correspondences according to complementary opposites.

Personality and health were defined by the quantity, harmony, and balance of the various elements, qualities, and vital forces or humors. Metaphorical metaphysics was the formulation for metaphorical medicine.

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Grahic Jump Location
Figure 3.
Time-keeping devices have become increasingly precise.(21)

The exploratory voyages of the 18th century produced increasingly accurate geographical information because of John Harrison's chronometer, which made determination of longitude possible . With the development of the mechanical escapement clocks came the ability to actually estimate the quantity of error. Dissection of atomic geography has produced a timepiece with equivalent resolution, the cesium atomic clock, that allows the study of both infinitesimal and infinite spaces and events.

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