December 30, 2013

Hurry Up And Read This!

Do you remember speed dial? It might still exist, although the need for it never did. Think about it. When did we get so hurried that we had to reduce a 10-digit phone number to just one, in order to save.... what? Two seconds of our time? I had brunch with a friend yesterday who pointed out a cultural difference - people who live in some parts of the world (Caribbean islands, Jamaica for one) have a different perception of time. They move more slowly and are less inclined to do things quickly. Is it because they live in hot climates? Or is it because they don't buy into our notion of "not enough time"?

When I suggest to people that time doesn't exist outside of human perception, they look at me as if I'm crazy. In fact, humanity invented time as a way to measure the earth's rotation around the sun. Minutes, hours, days, months - they weren't around until we imposed them. So when I say "time isn't real", I mean it's not a force of nature, like weather, or a law of physics, such as gravity. If you ignore time, it really does go away.

The sundial, the hourglass - these were the first attempts to impose measure on daylight and gravity, and then the pendulum took over, gradually becoming the time-keeping devices that we know today.The sun will still appear and disappear with regularity because, after all, we are in constant motion, inside and out. But time passing is an illusion. Our bodies age because they are expanding on a molecular level and will eventually wear out - it's not because time is ticking away.

Yet every day, at least here in North America, we rush through our lives as if we are in a race against time. Commuters grit their teeth while stuck in traffic because employers decided some time ago that the work day begins at 9 a.m., that lunch is at noon, and that the day is over around 5 p.m. As a result of this imposed structure, most of us rush through the rest of our days. At the retail cash, we fidget if someone takes too long. We hate line-ups, because they "waste our time." We want everything NOW. We invest heavily into anything that saves us time, whether it's a dishwasher, a faster car, an airplane trip or the latest time-saving app. At dusk, we rush home again, keenly aware that we only have a few hours to prepare dinner and enjoy some "leisure time" before climbing into bed to ensure that we have enough "sleep time" for a proper's night rest.

It's not a bad structure, overall, which is why it persists to this day. But getting caught up in time for the sake of saving time can have very real consequences. When we are stressed, as example, our bodies release a chemical called cortisol. Under chronic stress, and with the regular assault of cortisol, we become victims of our own "fight or flight" response, with harsh results. What about work accidents? How many of them happen because someone is rushing to be more efficient or hurrying to meet an imagined deadline?

Another year has passed, according to our time-keepers. It's a new year. We'll call it 2014. This year, may I respectfully suggest that everyone take "time" to think more, rush less, and re-establish your relationship with time, if necessary. As the earth revolves and one day turns into the next, understand that "saving time" is about as useful as saving daylight. There's no bank for time, and no way to get it back. You might as well slow down and savour every moment.

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