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17. There was no time, therefore, when thou hadst not made anything, because
thou hadst made time itself. And there are no times that are coeternal with
thee, because thou dost abide forever; but if times should abide, they would
not be times.
For what is time? Who can easily and briefly explain it? Who can even comprehend
it in thought or put the answer into words? Yet is it not true that in conversation
we refer to nothing more familiarly or knowingly than time? And surely we understand
it when we speak of it; we understand it also when we hear another speak of
What, then, is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain
it to him who asks me, I do not know. Yet I say with confidence that I know
that if nothing passed away, there would be no past time; and if nothing were
still coming, there would be no future time; and if there were nothing at all,
there would be no present time.
But, then, how is it that there are the two times, past
and future, when even the past is now no longer and the
future is now not yet? But if the present were always present,
and did not pass into past time, it obviously would not
be time but eternity. If, then, time present--if it be time--comes
into existence only because it passes into time past, how
can we say that even this is, since the cause of its being
is that it will cease to be? Thus, can we not truly say
that time is only as it tends toward nonbeing?