What’s on your schedule this week?
Does it matter, with everything that needs to get done, that time as we know it and live it is only a mental construction?
Sure, some say that time doesn’t actually “exist” but the social and economic fabric of our global society (and all of our technology) runs on our collectively built and individually maintained concept of Time.
With our calendars and clocks, our PDAs and watches – our appointments, deadlines and responsibilities – of course time exists. Because we created it, and live our lives by it, time exists for us.
The clock helps regulate each hour of the day so we can plan our lives.
We can schedule when things need to happen and organize our thoughts, our actions and our relationships accordingly. With this system we know when to work and when to sleep and we can communicate, travel and trade locally and worldwide within a commonly understood context.
Yet, even inside this fixed structure (though we’ve created UTC and universally agreed that this is “The Official Time”) we still have various cultural and social understandings of time. We each move within our own personal time zones.
Robert Levine, in A Geography of Time, documents his travels around the globe researching the wide diversity of lived clock time in different countries.
John Boyd and Philip Zimbardo in their new book, The Time Paradox, design six categories to describe (from a Western point of view) individual time perspectives and offer a test you can take to discover yours.
Reading about the history of clocks and calendars reveals the elaborate fashioning of our time definitions. And scientists posit various theories and equations for time and debate their implications but there is not one unified, agreed upon theory.*
Our modern day understanding of time is built on an intricate web of mathematical calculations, scientific theories, economics, marketing, national laws and international agreements combined with our cultural and personal definitions of time.
Time appears solid because we have organized our internal and external lives on our definition of it.
Why does any of this matter when you have a million things to do today?
You don’t really have time to think about time.
Which is exactly why your perspective of time matters.
Notice how often your view of time keeps you circling. You always end up at the same place: with not enough time.
Knowing that time is only a mental construction gives you the freedom to create and navigate your own time zone.
Suddenly, where before there was only one choice, now there are options.
Recognizing the porosity of time opens a door in the busy, time strapped mind. Here is a way out of one-view thinking into a wider realm of infinite possibilities.
So before you launch into your week, take a minute (which, without your watch doesn’t really “exist” anyway) to examine your personal time zone. Remember that your position and perspective are changeable. You can be flexible.
Time, as we know it and live it, is just a mental construction.
Enjoy the freedom.
(This post is #2 in a 5 part series on Time)
(*) Books on Time: The History of Clocks and Watches by Kenneth E. Welch; Empires of Time: Calendars, Clocks and Cultures by Anthony Aveni; Marking Time: The Epic Quest to Invent the Perfect Calendar by Duncan Steel; The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos, and the New Laws of Nature by Ilya Prigogine; and Time: A Travel’s Guide by Clifford A. Pickover.
(Of course there are hundreds more. These are just the ones I’ve read.)