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An anguish called time

by Dra Maria Alice

Dr Maria Alice is a consultant in General and Family Medicine and is director of Luzdoc International Medical Service in Praia da Luz, Lagos.

In 1922, Ray Cummings, a science fiction writer, said “time… is what keeps everything from happening at once”.

Time has been a major subject of religion, philosophy and science, but no-one has ever achieved defining it in a non-controversial manner, applicable to all fields of study.

Periodic events and periodic motion have long served as standards for units of time, like the apparent motion of the sun across the sky, the phases of the moon, the swing of a pendulum, and the beat of a heart.

Time is also of significant social importance and economic value, “time is money”, as well as personal value, due to the undisputable fact of the limited time in each day and in human life span.

Life Expectancy, in the statistical sense, is the expected number of years of life, remaining at a given age, according to a particular mortality experience.

Humans are convinced that they are the powerful species that rules the World… or, should I say, the Universe?

No, we are not. Time shows us, humans, that we are not in control of everything. So does “nature”…

Psychologists assert that time seems to go faster with age, but the literature on this age-related perception of time remains controversial.

As an example, one day to an eleven-year-old person would be approximately 1/4,000 of their life, while one day to a 55-year-old would be approximately 1/20,000 of their life.

According to this interpretation, a day would appear much longer to a young child than to an adult, even though the measure of time is the same.

Certainly a minute is a minute, no matter who you are or where you live, but the perceived speed of time can change person-by-person and even minute-by-minute.

Ask anyone who has ever done something they have not enjoyed and they will say that time slowed and dragged by.

And there is no doubt that “Time flies when you’re having fun” as time often seems to go too fast when we are enjoying something, like a holiday or a movie.

While we cannot lengthen or shorten time at our leisure, we can change how we perceive time in order to become more productive, less rushed or happier.

There is no doubt that we can optimise our effort to ensure that we achieve the greatest benefit possible with the limited amount of time that is available to us within our available life time.

To be Born and to Die… The beginning and the end of our life time. Facts that cannot be discussed or changed. These primary events of life can be seen as totally opposite but, they really have quite a few common characteristics. They are beyond the “individual” control. Nobody chooses/decides when, where, how to be born or to die.

But we can decide the way we live, and we can alter, to a certain degree, the quality of our life time.

The term Quality of Life is used to evaluate the general well-being of individuals and societies.

Researchers at the University of Toronto’s Quality of Life Research Unit define quality of life as “The degree to which a person enjoys the important possibilities of his or her life”. Their Quality of Life Model is based on the categories “being”, “belonging”, and “becoming”, respectively who one is, how one is connected to one’s environment, and whether one achieves one’s personal goals, hopes, and aspirations.

Within the field of healthcare, quality of life is often regarded in terms of how life is negatively affected, on an individual level, by a debilitating illness, the predictable, natural decline in the health of an elder or an unforeseen mental/physical decline.

In the present days “state of the art” of medical science and technology, there is a lot each person can do to achieve a better quality of life.

Although we all know we cannot live forever, we can certainly make our life time longer, better and use it at the highest quality possible, to the last smallest fraction of available time.

We cannot escape the anguish of the unavoidable, constant present fact of our time limited “validity”, but we can do a lot to make the best of it, every day. Our life time is a gift that should be used and enjoyed with the best mental and

physical health.

It is not our choice how long we live but the way we live is, in many ways, our own choice.