Yesterday, I listened to a great lecture on time and the way we manage it (or, rather, pretend to do so) on the Kindlings Muse. You’ll need to listen to it if you want all of the good stuff (and believe me, there’s plenty), but here are some of the more thought-provoking aspects of the talk.
Western culture is a slave to the clock. Karen and I have been discussing what to place over the mantle in our new apartment. We saw a large clock a few days ago while shopping, and immediately agreed on a resounding negative. We don’t want time to be the focus of our lives, and certainly not our living room. That partly resonates with the artistic personality, I guess: what you’re working on is much more important than “what time it is.” Moreover, though, I think I just instinctively push back against the concept of attempting to quantify something as intrinsic to our existence as time. As the lecturer points out, humans can’t imagine a life without time: we’re bound by it. Only God exists outside of time, having created it and therefore not being subservient to it. Western culture, however, joins the rest of the industrialized world in obsessing over time and punctuality. With that comes pressure (another point of the lecture): deadlines, pressure to rush through necessary events in life (like being alone and meditating) in order to be at a meeting on time…you get the idea. I see this as limiting us in many aspects of our lives. Take education, for example: I constantly go back through a peruse the material of the things I’ve received education in, because I still participate in them: Scripture, psychology, theatre, communications. As time progresses, I realize there are enormous implications and aspects that I didn’t completely unpack while I was in school because I wasn’t permitted time to do so; the course imposed a deadline on papers, etc. Languages are the worst for me: I dropped out of my first Greek class because I couldn’t keep up with the pace, a pace I felt the class was conducted upon largely in order to be considered a graduate level course. Had things slowed down, I would have grasped the material much better.
I understand that some cultures, especially island cultures, have a much more laid-back concept of time. Events may be scheduled for 3:00 p.m., but they actually begin when everyone arrives. I can already feel the pressure leaving me as I imagine this. The natural argument here is, of course, that less will get accomplished. Yet, this leads to another point of the lecture: we’re overwhelmed with things that need accomplished, not to mention information to be absorbed and the fact we are constantly in communication with each other. At some point, we’re forced into so many different things that we can’t do any of them well, even if we do make conscious efforts to set boundaries. Perhaps a lower expectation of accomplishment wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
I won’t attempt to summarize the entire talk here, but the result has been changing the way in which I view time. My perspective has shifted when I look at the clock. I think the implications from re-examining both our concept and our usage of time are literally life-altering.
Of course, that assumes we have time to reflect on them.