This was originally published exactly thirty years ago today on the 17th of October 1989. Enjoy! Given the topic, you won't want to put it aside for later. Read it now!
Jesse Ramsden, Esq., was a very good instrument maker; the Dublin observatory was apparently delighted with the instrument when they finally got it. There is no word on the reaction of the Royal family at the appearance of the party-goer 365 days after they had seen the last guest out the door.
But the thing is, no one gives him credit for being a really inspired procrastinator.
Procrastination is not given the sort of recognition it really should have. Ask just about anybody and they will tell you that procrastination is the thief of time, or words to that effect. No doubt Ramsden would prefer to think of it the way it was described by humorist Don Marquis, as "the art of keeping up with yesterday." My experience would indicate that there is a lot of yesterday to keep up with.
Did you know, speaking of scientific instruments, that the hot topic amongst physicists these days is something they call the "arrow of time"? Apparently, physicists (who always like to think they are ahead of their time) have made the astounding discovery that time only moves in one direction – forward. Now any procrastinator could have told them that years ago. Probably the only reason one didn't was that he didn't get around to it.
The whole thing about time--if I may just be allowed a word or two before the altar of Higher Thought--the whole thing about time is that it keeps on pushing up these bow waves, like a boat moving through the water. Right there, where bow meets destiny, there is a lot of pushing and shoving going on. On the other hand, if you betake yourself to the stern of this hypothetical boat, and gaze at where you've been, it will be apparent that all is as smooth as can be in the wake.
Any sensible procrastinator would conclude that those who want to make bow waves are welcome to the work. There is plenty to do (and lots of time to do it in) in the calmer waters astern. Of course the bigger the bow-wave you make, the less people can see what you are really up to, and so they are likely to say something like, "Wow, look at that guy churn up the water," and let it go at that.
Take those physicists, for example. They're out there with all this “arrow of time” stuff and a whole lot of equations, throwing water in all directions, and telling innocent folks that the end is coming in only about twenty-three giga-eons or so, and probably a lot of people hear that and think, "Gee, I'd better get the car washed."
What they should do, of course, is join the procrastinators back here in the smooth water. I mean, people have known which way the clock runs for a long time, so what's so great about some high-powered physicist suddenly telling us what we've all known all along? All he's done is come up with a snappy description.
The arrow of time indeed. Sounds dangerous doesn't it? Procrastinators take care to position themselves well back of where that arrow is headed.
So, all this business about procrastination being the thief of time, that was just another snappy remark, cooked up by Edward Young, a noted eighteenth-century workaholic.
Those of us who humbly endeavour to follow in the footsteps of the great Jesse Ramsden, know there is a lot more time to play around in if you have your eye firmly fixed on yesterday.
And anyway. Who says the arrow of time is the only irreversible thing in the universe? That's obvious poop. What about the arrow of money, hey?
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We moved to our farm in Sussex, New Brunswick from Toronto in 1977, only moving away in 2014.