Does how we measure time affect our relationship with time itself?
The Lilliputians decide Gulliver’s watch must be his god because he consults it so obsessively. Today, that watch would be a smartphone.
Some musings on how we experience time. And how we can alter that experience.
Our culture is obsessed with time – how to use it, how to gain it, how not to waste it. But the roots of that neurosis stretch back long before the invention of management consultants and the BlackBerry. Mankind has been fretting about time for centuries, even if the anxiety deepened with the invention of clocks. A reader has just sent me a glorious excerpt from Rabelais’ Gargantua, which was written in the 16th century. It contains wisdom and advice that ring true today:
“… And because in all other monasteries and nunneries all is composed, limited, and regulated by hours, it was decreed that in this new structure there should be neither clock nor dial, but that according to the opportunities and incident occasions, all their hours should be disposed of; for, said Gargantua, the greatest loss of time that I know, is to count the hours. What good comes of it? Nor can there be any greater dotage in the world than for one to guide and direct his courses by the sound of a bell, and not by his own judgment and discretion.”
One of the drivers of the speedaholic culture is our vexed relationship with time itself. Why is there never enough time? What is the best way to use time? Can we slow it down? Or speed it up? What exactly is time? An Italian graphic designer has now launched an intriguing project that tackles some of these questions visually. She is inviting people of all ages from around the world to submit a drawing that depicts the passage of time. Already hundreds have submitted their vision of time’s winged chariot in motion. Some are easy enough to deciper: a watch on a wrist; a cafeti√®re pouring coffee into a cup; an arrow flying through the air. Others are more enigmatic: undulating waves; a series of bubbles; lines coiled into the shape of a wind-sock. The site really gets you thinking about time and how to relate to it. It’s also fun to see other people’s take on it. Check out the site by clickingVisualization of Time Project. And while you’re there, why not take a little time to send in your own portrait?
Writing the new book is absorbing all of my energy at the moment so the blog, along with almost everything else, has taken a back seat. But to prove I’m still here, and that I haven’t slowed down so much that I’ve fallen into a coma, I’m posting a couple of quotations sent to me by a reader. They hit the nail right on the head:
But what minutes! Count them by sensation, and not by calendars, and each moment is a day.
— Benjamin Disraeli
Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.
— Will Rogers
Based on a comprehensive trawl of the Internet, the Oxford English Dictionary has just released a list of the most commonly used nouns in English. Guess what came in at Number One. No, it wasn’t ‘sex’ or ‘money.’ It wasn’t even ‘Viagra.’ It was ‘time.’ More evidence of our collective obsession with the clock? Very likely.