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Archive for August, 2020

Seasons Over Seconds

One morning this week, I woke up and wrote:

“I know the light here. Clocks have less purpose when you really know a place. Clocks are strange instruments that we’ve made to help us more efficiently destroy the places we live.”

I was surprised that I wrote that and I wanted to try and unpack what I was talking about here.

The context for all of this is that I’m currently living on the Mornington Peninsula, in the middle of a lockdown, not able to travel more than 5 kms from the house. I have a solid routine that I’ve been doing constantly since March. And for the first time in my life, I think I can say that I truly know the place I’m living in.

I’ve found myself knowing what the ocean will look like by looking at the tops of the trees. I can how cold it will be by the sunrise or lack of. And I can tell more or less what time it is by the light and sometimes by which birds are in which trees. It’s a new and wonderful feeling to be so connected to a place.

Each morning I sit and write and the only thing I can hear apart from the wind and the birds are the clocks in the house. I don’t even know where they all are. But I know they are there. Ticking away, doing what exactly?

When I started to think about how I was beginning to read the place that I lived, I’ve ended wondering, why isn’t this enough? Why can’t I just wake up when the light tells me? What are these clocks giving me that the sun and moon can’t?

More questions came up. Where did clocks come from? Who decided measuring time was necessary? How did people live before we had clocks? How much measurement is too much measurement? Are our lives better with these things or not?

I imagined the world in a time before we could so accurately measure it. People using the sun and the seasons to make their decisions, not seconds.

There is a difference between Time and Clocks. I think time exists regardless (to be debated), but we invented clocks as a way to measure time. Why?

I tweeted this week that “clocks are a system of control”. That is what the feel like to me. There is that saying in business that “you can only manage what you measure”. We are measuring time to try and manage it. To control it. To control others.

This meeting starts then. The train leaves now. It’s time to get up. It’s time to go to bed. You’ve had your time.

Following this direction, those who better measure time can better manage it and control it and you.

I started to think about indigenous people who presumably had less accurate ways to measure time, being confronted and colonised by people who were more accurately measuring it. The disturbing assumption that ‘their way was is better’.

Looking around the room, I wondered how clocks were controlling me. I feel trapped by time. I have to finish writing this to do everything I need to do before my first meeting, which starts at 9:00 am. Why 9:00 am?

We’ve slowly stumbled into an existence where our natural connections to the world we live in are superseded by a system of measurement and control that we invented and do not critique enough.

We can discuss whether we are better or worse off with clocks and watches and accurate time measurement. Of course, there are pros and cons. But we mostly just accept this as the norm. It’s how things are. But I do wonder what things would be like with clocks, seconds, minutes, constant ticking.

This weekend, I’m trying an experiment. I’ve taken all the batteries out of the clocks in the house and covered the digital ones. I’m trying to spend a weekend without the constant control.

Hiding time is harder than I thought. It’s everywhere. The oven, heater, car, computer, and of course the phone. I put some tape on the corner of my phone where the time is normally displayed and was ready to celebrate a small victory when I replied to a message and saw the time stamp staring back at me.

It’s almost impossible to escape, isn’t it?

As I walk around the house, I catch myself glancing unconsciously at the places where clocks used to be. It’s a strange but freeing feeling to see nothing there.

I want to imagine a world without clocks, watches, minutes, and seconds. What would that look like?