Shelled Reptiles and Our Shrinking Wall Calendars: A New Way to Perceive Time

Charles_DarwinDuring the 1830s, Charles Darwin, the father of modern-day evolutionary theory, visited the Galapagos Islands on a ship named The HMS Beagle. He researched much of the islands’ flora and fauna and wildlife as he was beginning to shape the ideas for his theory of natural selection, later used as a unifying force in all of biology.

Yes, Darwin changed the world and our understanding of it, and that’s all fine and good.

But one of the more extraordinary stories of Darwin’s visit to these islands involves a little reptile named Harriet. Harriet was a Galapagos Tortoise. To the layperson, this means a damn big turtle. They sometimes weigh over 800 pounds and grow to be six feet long. That’s a large animal.

Darwin later gave Harriet to the captain of The Beagle. The big reptile eventually came to live in an animal preserve in Australia.

Galapagos Tortoise with baby 2Darwin collected Harriet in 1835. At that time, she was about 5 years old. A mere baby in tortoise years.

Here’s the amazing part.

Harriet, who in her own turtle way met Charles Darwin, didn’t die until 2006. She was approximately 175 years old when she passed.

This isn’t even exceptional. That’s pretty average. Many types of tortoises live to be 200 years old.

Harriet inspired me, in a world with a lot of talk (I’m guilty of this) of shrinking time and accelerated change.

I propose we start to think of the passing of time in 200-year-units called “Tortii.” They are twice as long as centuries. But that’s the point.

Imagine, in one Tortii, approximately the lifespan of one Galapagos turtle, you could go from the marriage of Napoleon Bonaparte to Archduchess Marie Louise, all the way to the advent of privatized space travel. That’s quite a leap, technologically speaking. Try to picture the world in one Tortii from today.

A Galapagos turtle born right now will live to see the colonization of Pluto. That’s pretty amazing stuff for a reptile.

Welcome to the 11th tortii of the common era.

Why Is This Helpful?

time crunch“What’s the point of a Tortii?” you may ask. “We already have days and years and decades. Isn’t that enough?”

Because it may help us re-imagine our existence in an era of shrinking time; to think for the the longer term instead of the very urgent, daily grind.

In other words, in a sped-up world, we tend to crunch time; feel our days closing in upon us. The Tortii is just a simple device that pushes against the encroaching walls and helps us think beyond our daily to-do lists, those little boxes on our wall calendar, and even our own temporal life spans.

And lastly, a tortii helps us remember that something born today, biologically, will be alive in the year 2200. Now that’s living in the future.

Is the Calendar Shrinking, or Am I Getting Taller?

Only a few things could account for this feeling that our lives are going by quicker than ever. It seems that once we get acclimated to the new mores and technologies, they’re already over.

Either our planet is spinning faster, or we are circling the sun at a higher clip, right?

Here’s how you can counter this feeling:

Visit a zoo in San Diego, or Philadelphia, or Australia.

You may see a newborn Galapagos tortoise that one day will also be seen by your great grandchildren.

Imagine the 200 years of rapid change that giant turtle will witness. That turtle might meld with technology, become the world’s first cy-turtle, grow super intelligent, and decide galapagos-tortoiseto venture past our solar system. Or it might just spend the next 200 years eating lichens and berries. Who knows?

The question this turtle should make us ask is not “What is urgent today?” but rather “When this newborn tortoise passes away in 200 years (if life forms still die in 200 years), what will the world look like that I helped create?”


About Blog Boss

Jim MacKenzie and Sarah Giavedoni are the creators of the blogs Stuff Monsters Like, the Incredible Vanishing Paperweight, and more. When they are not blogging, they are devoted to managing the Asheville Blogger Society, watching movies, running a completely unrelated nonprofit, and making money at their paid employment.
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