For the time being

I have always been anti-clock. Not anti-clockwise, just opposed to clocks. Until recently, that is. Now, I realize they have their uses. I think my opposition to these bland, ubiquitous dials stemmed from an opposition to time. Great thinkers, from Augustine to Heidegger and Einstein, have been fascinated by time. Yeats entitled one of his poems "To the Rose upon the Rood of Time" -- the rose of spiritual beauty having ever been crucified upon time's cross. Visionaries of both East and West have speculated upon the possibility of release from the bondage of temporality. Today, it seems as if the physicists are confirming with mathematical precision what many people through the centuries have sensed: that time is not as fixed an entity as if seems.

There is a well-founded philosophical view that time is illusory. Although I hold with it, I am not now prepared to give philosophical proofs. My argument against time is moral, aesthetic, experiential. (This can, however, be proven, and in the most respected way, too -- empirically, by trying it out.)

So although I have been reconciled to clocks (grandfather, cuckoo, alarm, watches, sundials and the rest), I remain an enemy of time. What has it done to deserve my enmity? What is it?

Time is becoming,m as opposed to being.m It is searching for satisfaction in the future, instead of finding it in the now. When you seek it, the proverb tell us, you cannot find it: when you no longer seek it, it is always with you. It is a question what itm refers to. But I have a feeling it means more or less what is meant by everyone the world over who has seen a little beyond appearances: release, timelessness, eternity.

Time is regret, longing for the past. It is projecting my happiness out of myself into the never-never land of long ago instead of discovering it in the present. To discover happiness in the now is to be released to some extent from time, because time is precisely unm happiness.

Time is egotism. To look upon myself under the aspect of time is to see myself as if through others' eyes -- constantly concerned to build myself up, to construct an ego (because of my unconscious concern that it is falling apart). The ways I do this are manifold: ambition, self-worship, the accumulation of material things. My frantic concern is always to define myself, to fix myself in space and time. Altruism, being opposed to egotism, is oppsed to time.

Time is estrangement: from oneselft, because fulfillment is turned into accretion. From the world, because the future and past rob us of all that we should possess in the present. (And this is not mere legal possession -- I get as much from a walk in the park on a Sunday in summer as any self-made millionaire does from a saunter in his hardwon estate -- more, I would venture to say.)

To be in bondage to time is to be estranged from one's spontaneity. It is getting things done,m so one can then "enjoy" himself. But viewed from the standpoint of time, neither work nor leisure is truly fulfilling: the former, because it is to be got over with, and the latter, since it will end too soon. In fact I would venture to say that the whole split between "work" and "leisure" in our culture is a function of our bondage to time.

Time is a mania for the "how," for technique, rather than the "why," the reason for technique. It is doingm divorced from being, mere functioning. It is mere service to, rather than mastery of, the machine: it is being part of the machine, the process.

Time is money. Or rather, that is how it is almost universally viewed: by workers, employers and those who oppose our whole system. But as long as work is subservient to time and money, work is bondage: it is getting things done, getting things over with.m It is working to get paid, rather than working and then getting paid. It is the projection and consequent loss of happiness.

I do not suggest we become reconciled to boring and repetitive work simply by viewing it sub specie aeternitatis.m If an occupation is not fulfilling the deepest drives of our being, it is time to look for another. But in the meanwhile, one cane be employed both off and on the job as creatively and beautifully as possible, so that clocking in and out do not mark respectively low and high water marks of the day, but are part of a continual progression.

And so back to clocks. Since clocks measure time, are they not then doubly limiting?

I do not think so. As in the case of the double negative, to limit a limitation may be to negate it to some extent. Time can be used to transcend time. By strictly ordering our time and our lives, by being on time, we can become freed to some extent from the bondage of temporality. I used to think it was the other way around: that being late was being liberated, that refusing to get up early was a deadly blow against the work ethic. Now, I realize that the problem isn't the work ethic but time itself. And someday I will triumph over time.

But not, alas, as long as I think in terms of "someday."

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