Whose time is is anyway?

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I was sitting out on my back deck this weekend thinking about time and took a pause in my reading of the book, Saving Time. I was staring off into the yard, gazing at my third-year attempt at a vegetable garden (this time tilled into the ground rather than raised bed, fingers crossed) wondering when the bell peppers would start getting taller and begin fruiting. After all, it has been about six weeks since I planted them and I want some peppers! That lead me to thinking about how useless I am in my own survival, as I would surely starve without other people growing the food that I put into my mouth on the daily. But it also got me thinking about how illusioned I am to real time - not the clock time that came about through colonialism - but the individual time of an organism as it cycles through its life, none identical to another’s.

I have been increasingly concerned about whether the grapefruit tree I have been stewarding since it was a seed three and a half years ago (and which I planted in the ground last fall) is still alive. It clearly has frost bite but some of the trunk still looks healthy. What has been stressing me out is that all the other trees seem to be lush and reproducing their leaves while that little dude is still naked and looking ill. But then, the other day as I was driving home, I notice that several trees that are planted in my subdivision’s green space - trees that are the same species as one another - were not all leafy. There were two or three that were still naked while its neighbors were abundant with luminescent green leaves. It reminded me that I was failing to recognize non-human organisms as individual living beings. Just as no two human beings are identical, no two non-human organisms are identical and they exist in their own time, not the one we believe they should be following as if they were machines.

I can only speak for myself, but I find that we (as a society) are living in the future. We encourage wage-workers to save for the future. We engrain in our youth to spend their precious younger years preparing themselves for the future, i.e. extracurriculars and clubs for college application; asking tiny humans what they want to be when they grow up; jokingly saying that two toddlers “have a boyfriend/girlfriend”, etc. We supposedly put federal initiatives and international agreements in place to provide for a better future for upcoming generations. What I am getting at is that it rarely feels as if we are living in the ‘right now’ and paying attention to what we are doing ‘in this moment’.

Our library shelves are stacked with biographies, histories, and stories full of wisdom toward the importance of being present ‘in this moment’. In Saving Time, the author brings up the idea that as we live in the future, as we are waiting for our lives to happen, we are failing to live in the ‘meantime’. It reminded me of one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books, Oh the Places You’ll Go, and the pages that talk about “The Waiting Place”:

“…for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or a No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.”

Remembering those words, I realized that was exactly what we all seem to be doing, waiting around for the future to arrive and, thus, lose time not living ‘in the meantime’.

Is it possible for us (as a society and a country) to work on shifting our understanding and concept of time? Is it possible for us to begin to shed the ruling of a 24-hour clock of our own creation and begin living according to the sun, as practically every organism living on Planet Earth is molded to live? Is it possible for us to stop living in The Waiting Place and start living in The Meantime? Will we reach a point where we can finally listen to the wisdoms imparted by the past, enabling us to live now and not a future of our own imagination? Is it possible for modern humans to pivot back to an existence and awareness that time is not necessarily linear, but radiates in all directions all at once? Is time, itself, alive? Can we stop watching our time tick by and let it tell us?

-Samantha Hanchett, Marketing + Outreach Coordinator

*Please note that the opinions of “Thoughts” are just that and do not necessarily represent the views of the Thomas County Public Library.


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