Quick answer? Time, of course. We never have enough but we're the only living creature that pays any attention to it. We measure time very carefully - on our wrists or on the wall or on our radio or television set.Every move we make during a day, from the time we get up in the morning until we go to sleep at night, has a specific time we're scheduled to do it and we keep careful track of how long it will take to get it done.Time, or at least the careful way we run our lives by it, has no meaning to any other living creature. Oh, I suppose a rooster knows by some kind of instinct that there comes a time when it starts to get light in the morning and it's supposed to crow and get its fellow barnyard companions up and moving. And, of course, it's about time for one of those bossy human creatures to come along and dump some food into the feeding trough.The rest of the day, the rooster and the other barnyard creatures will eat when they feel like it during the day, if there's some food handy. There's no awareness that "this is lunch time" or "this is supper time."Let's take one of those favorite African wildlife scenes we've all become familiar with through books, or movies or TV shows about the Dark Continent.It's a lazy hot afternoon and a pride of lions - a couple of full-maned males, maybe a lioness or two and two or three cubs - are relaxing on a hill off to one side of the huge Serengeti Plain which is teeming with wildlife of all sorts, most of them, by the way, keeping a wary eye out for the lions.Let's say the lions have a time sense like ours."You know what?" one of the big males says in whatever language lions use to communicate with each other. "I haven't had anything to eat for a few days and I'm a bit hungry. It's about two in the afternoon. I think I'll take a stroll out in the Serengeti and grab me a fat Thompson gazelle for lunch. It'll take a half hour or so to grab one of those critters, so I'll be back somewhere about 2:30 and we can all have lunch. Unless," he says to one of the females, "you feel like doing it. You're usually pretty good at it."The female shakes her big tawny head. "Don't do me any favors," she says. "I do most of the hunting around here. You do it for a change." Half hour later, as the male promised, the pride is lunching on Thompson gazelle, with the cubs trying to nose in on the meal."I need a nap," the well-stuffed big male says lazily. "Wake me up about 3:30."Is it possible lions communicate like that? Who knows? They do live together, so something goes on among them.I live in a big garden apartment development in Woodbury. There's a large lake in the center. They haven't been around lately, but we used to have a large flock of resident Canadian geese. Very dramatic and noisy when they fly in formation.Every evening, they'd fly in and land on the lake. I always enjoyed watching how they used their feet as paddles to slow themselves down while landing. Every night, a bunch of them would land on the lake and curl up for the night.Did something tell them it was bedtime? Did they sense the sun was going down? After all, there were plenty of cloudy days with no sun. Who knows?There used to be some ducks on the lake, too. I don't know where they went, but they used to curl up on the lake at night as well. Was there some kind of inner alarm clock that tipped them off to what time it was?I've seen plenty of nature films on TV about various birds and animals that come out at night. How do they know what time to show up? The darkness? Some inner clock?Mother Nature gave us all some sense of time, so she must have had some idea about time and how to use it.In the famous movie about the Civil War, "Gone With the Wind," there's a scene in the beginning showing words carved into a stone tablet on Tara, Scarlett O'Hara's plantation home. It reads: Do not squander time. That is the stuff life is made of.We're lucky. While there are other animals, like elephants, that outlive us by three to one or more, we have a pretty long life span and we've done a lot to lengthen it. Of course, we've also figured out how to make gadgets that can wipe out the whole thing in one big mushroom-shaped cloud, so we'd better learn how to get along.
©2005 Community News Group
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