Albert Einstein was right about time being relative — and you only have to travel to the small islands of the Caribbean to see his theory in action.
I’m walking along a white sand beach on a small island home to roughly 250 inhabitants. It’s not much more than a jagged rock poking its head above the blue and green waters. Einstein would’ve fully appreciated the pace of life that occupies the islands that dot the waterscape.
“Good morning,” I say as I approach a woman standing behind a wooden counter not much bigger than a pickup truck.
White Adirondack chairs and tall palms fill out the scenery, save for a few colorful shells mixing with the gentle surf scrubbing the beaches behind me.
“Are you open yet?” I ask.
“No,” she says, the rhythm of her words perfectly timed to a personal beat I struggle to hear.
“When do you open?” I say.
“When the owners get here.”
“When do you think that’ll be?”
Without missing a beat she replies, “When they get here.”
For someone who straps a mechanical timing device on his or her wrist each morning, this could sound as if she is talking down to me.
But since this is not my first visit to these islands, I understand her words are accurate — time in the Caribbean is a relative term.
To say you go to bed when you are tired, you wake up when you wake up, you eat when you’re hungry are all valid expressions of time measured in a world without the hands of a clock.
I thank her and turn back to the water.
Her words, however, remind me that there is a world out there where time is not measured in the finite terms of 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour.
Somewhere along the line mankind decided it needed to tame the concept of time — hoping to harness its endless energy and focus the momentum of perpetuity to move us forward.
Much like the need to break a horse, man could not leave the concept of time alone.
Today, most of us live in a world broken down into segments of quarter-hours, or have little reminders popping up on our cellphones to tell us where to be in an hour.
We are, in many ways, slaves to “time engineering” — that is, letting time’s tools dictate to us when we wake up, when we sleep, or when we eat.
But back in the blue waters of the Caribbean, Einstein’s theory of relatively is still in force for all to see.
For on most of these tiny specs of earth, hours of operation are a cumbersome concept.
Time on the islands is more likely to be measured in terms of “today, tomorrow and later.”
Looking back across the white sands, I see a man walking alone along the beach front.
From his wrist gleams a silver band of metal more commonly known as a wristwatch.
Unknowingly, this tells me — and others — volumes about him and his understanding of the world he has entered.
If he expects this place, the lightly-populated specs of rock scattered throughout blue waters, to adhere to the concept of time dictated from his wristwatch, he is going to be very disappointed.
As for me, I’m happy to temporarily surrender myself to a world where even Einstein would have to smile.