It’s a funny old thing, time. I’ve got a sneaky feeling that we’d all be a whole lot better off if it had never been conceived. I wouldn’t be concerned about how long it was taking me to write this blog to start with.
Last night I was getting undressed for my shower and I found that I was taking my shoes off with my feet as I was unbuttoning my trousers. As the nature of this craziness revealed itself I figured I was trying to save time. Let’s face it, that’s a concept we take into our lives at a very early age. But why for goodness sake? Time is what you make of it. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey etc
What have we done to time?
I still remember sitting in the backseat of my grandfather’s Morris Minor as my grandmother asked him what the hurry was ( and he was probably only doing 40 mph ), that we’d get there “in good time” all the same. This was a woman who’d grown up walking the pigs to market.
The first time I flew to Australia it took me 36 hours to get there and six months to recover. Now I can do the return flight in four days if necessary while working almost as if I was still on the ground. It’s bizarre but, in so many ways now, really quite normal.
In the meantime, while pondering on what we’ve done to time, it might be worth talking about what time’s done to us. From where I sit it feels as if it’s trying to see how fast it can get us going before we all spontaneously burst into flame or spin off the face of this planetoid. Faster planes, trains, automobiles, computers, phones, email, text, FaceBook, Twitter are all testing our reaction speeds; a contract can be won or lost depending on the speed at which you respond and become ‘engaged’ in the spirit of a project. It’s pretty bloody scary and it takes a rare individual to step back and ask for some time out. This style of behaviour has eaten into our leisure time. Almost without exception we take our phones everywhere and feel nervous without them. We’ve allowed ourselves to be ‘on call’ at any time. It’s mental.
Almost as mental as me talking about time as if it was a physical entity, the master of everything. Of course it’s not. That’s just how we’ve allowed time to become.
Can you imagine if they were to build the Sistine Chapel now and Michelangelo was offered the commission to paint the ceiling? If he came back to them and said it was going to take four years to paint, they’d just hang up the phone there and then. It just wouldn’t work. Who’s got that sort of time? For a painting?
I could go on til the end of time with examples of how chronically we’ve enslaved ourselves to this purely abstract concept. Ultimately it’s little more than an illusion, a creation of our need to measure and set standards. As a photographer I enjoy using this sense of illusion by introducing either a sense of narrative, or temporal motion, into images with extended open shutter, sometimes with the added element of in-camera stitching. It shows that time is nothing but life in motion. This could be seen to be in conflict with the photojournalist precept of capturing the moment or the ‘decisive moment’ as determined by Cartier-Bresson. In actuality there is still a decisive moment in every act of an artist but that’s for another time, not now.
I guess my point is that from where I’m sitting it seems like we as a species are going down a path of imminent burn out at a pace determined by an ever shrinking concept of available time. We’ve all heard the expression ‘Time is Money’; ever thought “what the?” when someone has suggested “buying more time”? Time’s not for sale. Time isn’t a commodity. But we do love to personify Time, it seems so physical. Bowie, as Aladdin Sane, turned time into a faded vaudeville star: “Time, he’s waiting in the wings, he speaks of senseless things, his script is you and me boy”
Somehow we’ve all got to learn to chill out a bit more. Start a chain of response to those behind you calling for Faster Faster that says Chill A Bit Chill A Bit.