‘There’s been a timeshift’ Sarah said this morning as we went around adjusting the clocks that won’t adjust themselves. A curious ritual that takes place twice a year and sounds like a science fiction novel:
“TIMESHIFT, the strange alien world where everybody gets older or younger at the whim of ‘them’. The hidden, sinister elders who control the hands of time and the lives of everyone forced to believe that this ‘time’ of their’s is real.”
Years ago, when I had a job these ‘clocks changing’ days used to really annoy me. I’d feel robbed by ‘Spring forward’ and just as irritated by ‘Fall back’. These days it doesn’t bother me so much. Because I don’t believe in time.
Which is to say, I don’t believe in the falsely imposed ‘standard time’ which came in with railways and the industrial revolution. To make us all obedient and turn up for work ‘on time.’
I believe in the passage of time, in Springtime, and Autumn. How could you not? I believe in the dying back of plants and lives. And new growth and babies. I even believe in night and day and the clearly observable fact that the days are getting shorter now.
But writing this, at what is today called ‘ten past seven’ in the evening, how can I believe in time? When yesterday this ‘time’ would have been called ‘ten past eight?’
There hasn’t really been a timeshift, you see. We all just collectively agree to behave as if there has.
But me? I’ll go to sleep when I’m tired and I’ll get up when the light wakes me. That’s how it is these days, mostly. Except for the days when, for reasons of work or friendship I need to go and meet a time-believer. I’ll set my time-alarm and turn up ‘on time.’ But I don’t believe in time, I’m just going along with it to keep people happy.
And in thinking like this, I’m in tune with the way most of the people who have ever lived on the Earth have thought. Living in tune with the rhythm of the seasons. Doing less work in the dark days, because it’s dark. And doing most of my work when it suits me, because no one owns my ‘time.’
Even when this idea of ‘time’ was first imposed it would be a local version of it. So that everyone in, say, Hastings would be operating at roughly the same ‘time.’ But Hastings ‘time’ and Liverpool ‘time’ would have no reason to be connected. It was only the connection of the railways brought that about.
And I’m well aware that this will all sound more than a little crazy, anarchic even. And that most people in their jobs and schools simply don’t have the luxury of thinking like this. But that’s because we’ve become a society that’s addicted to ‘time,’ allows itself to be dominated by ‘time.’ We even send ourselves on time-management courses. I know, I’ve been. But I’m all right now, and not dominated or annoyed by these weird ‘timeshift’ days anymore. Because it’s my life. And whilst I’m enjoying the passage of time, I’m not tapping impatiently on my watch and saying ‘High time those last leaves dropped from that tree!’ Because that would be crazy. Wouldn’t it?
In the Park they’re getting ready for the time of the year when everyone enjoys playing with ideas of time and life and death, Halloween.
Sarah calls it a ‘liminal space.’ Where the borders of life and death are not so sharply drawn. Where ‘time’ is not all it sometimes appears to be. People love it.
So, see you at the Lanterns this Friday evening? Starts at 6:30pm, in the current version of time we’re being asked to believe in. For the next few months anyway.
Ideas about time in this post heavily influenced by one of my favourite writers, Jay Griffiths, in her book ‘Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time.’ See, I’m not the only one.