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The New Time Lords, aka transition activists?

If you've never been troubled much about time, once you get involved with transiton, time takes on an altogether new value. It swiftly becomes the most precious commodity around and there never seems to be enough of it. But is this really an attitude we wish to take with us when creating the new Life Sustaining Society?

Time flies

spiral clock faceYou might have been there: that last meeting where nobody stepped forward to fill in the funding application form, so sighing, you volunteered, as somebody's gotta do it. When you get home later that evening, you are greeted by overflowing laundry baskets, piles of unsorted paper work, to do lists on the fridge, a grumpy hubbie, who's been left with the cooking, the washing up and the kids' homework again. As you shovel down a plateful of cooling and congealing pasta, it hits you: you do not have the physical time to do all this T work and make sure that the kids have clean undies for the morning and keep everybody happy. Or so it seems.

Once you become a transition activist, time is not on your side. To reverse climate change, it might already be too late, peak oil is a ticking time bomb, as is overpopulation. The economic “downturn” on the other hand is unfolding so painfully slowly it is difficult for people to understand where it will ultimately lead to and therefore hard to see the need for action. So transitionistas have a habit of racing around, manically trying to do too much stuff, totally in denial about how long things take, while they are explaining to yet another group how you cannot keep on extracting and using up finite resources on a finite planet, indefinitely.

Time, the final frontier

hour glassWhat is time? It is something that doesn't exist. It is made up of the past(which is no longer), the future (which isn't yet) and the present, which dissolves in either the past or the future the moment you try to define it. Trying to understand time means getting your head around paradoxes. In Newton's days, time looked like a neatly laid out pantry, preserves stacked according to their date of making, left to right. With Einstein and Relativity, how your pantry is organised, depends both on where in relation to the kitchen it is located and on how long food stuffs take to cook. So you might find the dried beans behind the pasta and the tinned peaches upfront. Come Stephen Hawking and Quantum Theory, there might well be some logic to storing the rice with your socks and the bread next to the Transition Companion, but it is utterly beyond me.

Some people might say that time is simply the method we use to organise our activities, but that does not explain why an hour of washing dishes lasts substantially longer than an hour of say, watching “Dr Who” and the“Time Lords” battle it out on telly. Or why that hour of dish washing becomes much shortened if you do it together with someone else whilst having a stimulating conversation. What matters more: the objective measurement of linear time, or our subjective experience of that period? I would say, the latter, but then I have never found myself much in accordance with the values of the Industrial Growth Society. There, time is money and is measured by mechanical devices strapped to wage slaves' bodies who are made to suffer the tyranny of the clock, becoming themselves little more than tiny cogs in the clockwork of profit. That's the paradigm we're trying to leave behind.

Rethinking Time

sundial

Despite our fascination with time travel, the necessary technology isn't in place just yet and we cannot go back in time to correct earlier mistakes. We hope we can influence the future by what we do in the present, but there are no guarantees. So why do we wear ourselves out trying to do it all when: a) It might not work, b) It might already be too late? Everybody will have their own answers to this question.

I'm in this game because now is a time of great change in the widest possible sense of the word and I want to influence the way change will go. More and more ordinary people are coming to realise that a lot of the old values are now so defiled, by politicians, police, media and banks alike, they are in need of a massive makeover. Justice, honesty, truth, courage, wisdom, nothing should be sacred in this great bonfire of values, least of all time. I would love to free myself from the tyranny of time. Can we imagine a moment where workers tear the shackle-like timepieces off their wrists and say: “Never again!” and demand more than money from their jobs, because subjective time is now what matters? Our current notion of time has allowed for it to become a monster, threatening to devour every last scrap of happiness. The idea that we can “save time” by going faster, by doing more in less time, is quite frankly, idiotic. We pay the price for that saving in terms of our health and well-being, even in transition, because we still hold onto this destructive idea of time.

sunsetLet's imagine a time where the journey has become more important than the destination. Where our experience of a job has more value than the amount of linear time in which we completed it. Where work, art and meditation are one and the same thing. Where we count time by the moment, not the minute. It's not an easy vision, but the more we dream it, the more “normal” it will feel, until it seems inconceivable that it was ever different. Just like women having the vote and the US having a black president, both thought to be impossible until they happened.

 

All photo's published under creative commons licence

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Comments

Kerry Lane's picture

I would love

I would love to change my approach to time, but as you outline so beautifully in this post, we are so entangled in our current perceptions of time that it is very difficult to see a way out!

Jo Homan's picture

great post Ann :)

I really recognise this:

sighing, you volunteered, as somebody's gotta do it. When you get home later that evening, you are greeted by overflowing laundry baskets, piles of unsorted paper work, to do lists

Not forgetting the tyranny of emails as well!

Also love

So transitionistas have a habit of racing around, manically trying to do too much stuff, totally in denial about how long things take, while they are explaining to yet another group how you cannot keep on extracting and using up finite resources on a finite planet, indefinitely.

Paradoxes abound.

John Mason's picture

There, time is money and is

There, time is money and is measured by mechanical devices strapped to wage slaves' bodies who are made to suffer the tyranny of the clock, becoming themselves little more than tiny cogs in the clockwork of profit. That's the paradigm we're trying to leave behind.


Working on a similarly-themed piece right now - not sure who for but it was originally an idea for Skeptical Science. An extract:

We move as a human tide to and from our places of work or education, daily in and out, flood and ebb. We complete our tasks in return for numbers that are fed to our individual databases: these numbers may be fed to the databases of larger organisations in return for stuff that we need or want, depending on the numbers available. We need nutrition so we obtain a certain amount of that on a regular basis, a proportion of which is eaten and another proportion of which is taken away to be buried in the ground. We want things so much that we believe that we need them: not tools for some trade or other but gadgets and widgets, to ostentatiously display to others but soon to become out-of-date, passe, to be superseded by later models and put in some hidden place and forgotten about. Some time ago a change in terminology occurred. We were no longer Humans: we became Consumers, processors of stuff. We are still reminded of this change in nomenclature, this reclassification, daily and hourly.

And yes - to the system we have, all of the above is considered sacred....

Anni Kelsey's picture

Re-imagining time

What a superb post Ann.  Thank you for putting this so powerfully and succinctly.  I don't know if getting past the paradoxes you describe is possible, but the starting point is to see them.  If more people recognise the insanity of how we attempt to do things attitudes in the wider population may start to shift.