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The artificiality of time

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This is riff off of Seth Godin’s post of Jan 2, 2012 wherein he talks about the fact that time is an artificial construct. Although physicists would argue this, I tend to agree with the point I think he is trying to make.

I have always gravitated to places that seem to run on their own time. Locals in these places use the phrase “Durango Time”, “Beach Time”, “Corpus Christi Time” or some variation of the theme. The point made is that there is something of a casual relationship to punctuality, that people get where they get when they get there. Things get done when they get done. There is a sense that there is something of a time warp from the rest of the frenetic pace of the rest of the world.

Truthfully, there is a bit of a time warp in such places.

The take away that I get from Godin’s post is that the clock is a tool. Prior to trying to coordinate everything to some universal measurement beginning at Greenwich England, each town ran according to its own measurement of noon. This worked fine in a world without trains, planes and automobiles. In a world with planes, trains and automobiles, it is helpful to have a universal standard of noon from which derive all other measures of time. It creates a standardized tool. We have the standard of living that we do have because we decided to synchronize our watches.

I don’t think Godin or I would argue that we should revert to that old norm of each town with its own noon.

The problem comes when the tool begins to control the people it is designed to serve.

We reach a point where the number of things accomplished in the given time rather than the worth or quality of the things determines the value of the day. There is a place for sheer volume. On the other hand, we do need to evaluate whether it is number that is the most important thing at this time.

Do you need to be watching your kid play soccer while at the same time checking the email on your smart phone and trying to jot down that thought you are having about the Miller account? When count becomes the only measure of accomplishment we lose something, I think.

Are you driving the tool or is the tool driving you?

Nature is a great place to answer this question. Take a walk, leaving all electronics and time measurement devices at home. Pause. Watch the critters around you. What are they doing? What can you learn from them? What are they doing when they eat? What are they doing when they play with each other? What are they doing when it is time to run from the dog?

Are you driving the tool? Is the tool driving you?

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