One of the biological clock alarms went off in my body a couple of weeks ago. You could say it was one of those wake-up calls. It was a sharp pain in my left knee that appeared while climbing the short step to the front door of the house.
The pain was debilitating for much of the day. I looked into possible causes. One website said that such pain is one symptom of aging. As it turned out, an ice-pack saved the day and the knee felt normal after resting it.
We know that our aging is a fact of life. It happens to all of us and all living things. Biological science has come up with a catchy name for these processes and the timing or periodicity of them–the biological clock.
Since I’m not a biological scientist I can only reflect upon the personal experiences of family, friends, and myself. This thing we think of as a biological clock is not an actual mechanical clock or quartz timepiece, but it is a sort of timekeeping mechanism that affects various ways our body operates and how long we exist. Science tells us there are several biological clocks inside each of us.
These “clocks” regulate such things as sleep, growth, and aging. We become aware of our biological changes at a young age. On the daily level, we discovered there is a time for awakening, a time to eat, and a time to sleep. Who doesn’t remember how eager we were as children to grow taller and to get older? We noticed the physical differences between elderly relatives, our parents, and ourselves.
Later we learn some biological clocks operate at different rates for women than they do for men. These clocks evolved out of requirements for childbirth and rearing. We used to believe these clocks were miraculous and mysterious, but now the experts know a lot more about them. As living beings, we cannot avoid their effects.
There is a field of scientific study of circadian rhythms and biological clocks called chronobiology. The people in that field discover and analyze the various physical, mental, and behavioral patterns that follow daily cycles. They tell us that biological clocks are present in most living things. If you are curious about your own sleep/wake cycles or aging, you may wish to browse some of their findings that are posted on the Web. Their research is quite fascinating.
According to chronobiologist and geneticist Jeffrey C. Hall, “A functional biological clock has three components: input from the outside world to set the clock, the timekeeping mechanism itself, and genetic machinery that allows the clock to regulate expression of a variety of genes.”
Hall says that biological clocks are not the same things as circadian rhythms. However, the two categories are intertwined and interdependent. Biological clocks regulate the timing of our circadian rhythms. Plus there is a process called the “master clock” that orchestrates the other biological clocks and keeps them synchronized. This master clock is found in a portion of the hypothalamus section of the brain.
Anyway, after the minor incident involving knee pain, I mentioned it to an older friend. Albert said, “welcome to the club.” He went on to reminisce about his earlier years and his career in teaching high school mathematics students. As a teacher, he was reminded each year about the cycle of human life. Each fall he welcomed a new crop of sophomores and juniors to his classes. In many instances he taught math to all the siblings from some families. Albert said that being a teacher humanized mathematics for him.
Albert retired from the public school system over 25-years ago, but his mind is still as vibrant as that of a 25-year-old man.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes columnist, author, educator Max Lerner. “We all run on two clocks. One is the outside clock, which ticks away our decades and brings us ceaselessly to the dry season. The other is the inside clock, where you are your own timekeeper and determine your own chronology, your own internal weather and your own rate of living. Sometimes the inner clock runs itself out long before the outer one, and you see a dead man going through the motions of living.”