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A metaphor to help human perception grasp Time.
We do not perceive time in a linear fashion. Time is more like an elastic thing; it's a stretchy string we can look at or pull on to see its shape, but the actual band of fabric itself doesn't appear all that different if you change how and when you examine it. It seems to never be anywhere near us; always out of reach even though we are smack dab in the middle of it.
When we look at it, time becomes a solid thing that can be seen and touched. We don't believe in its elasticity because that seems to have no real physical connection with our sense of observation.
What we perceive as normal, linear time is actually a hard representation of the elastic thing-time. The way we experience it is how our brain interprets the string.
One of the reasons that time is so hard to describe, and therefore understand, is because we can never be outside time. No matter how much knowledge we gain about it, no matter what perspective on it we adopt, we are always in its presence.
We can never experience time without experiencing it, which is the same as saying we can never know time without knowing it. We simply are not able to see past our own sense of being in order to understand what comes after.
We can attempt to use metaphors and analogies in order to understand time, but they will always fail. In fact, we are exactly like a metaphor for the way that humans view time; our understanding of it is limited by our presence in it.