Taking a Break from Time Pressure
Two months ago I wrote about taking off my watch in order to remind myself to be in this very moment. For the first week or so I found that I constantly looked at my left wrist, not so much to see what time it was but out of force of habit. I still look at my wrist now and then but this habitual gesture is quickly recognized for what it is, a habitual movement with no other meaning than the habit that drives it. I now am looking for the watch that isn’t there three or four times a week and then I mentally kick myself while reminding myself that I don’t have to do this any more.
Look, there are plenty of places I can find the time if I really need to. There are clocks all around my house; in the kitchen, bedroom, in the lower right hand corner of the computer on which I am writing this post, on my cell phone. If I really must be someplace for an appointment I can set an alarm on my cell phone as a reminder that it is time to go. If I really need to know what time it is I can always find out. I am not at all time deprived; what I am is no longer time dependent and that is a load off my back.
It seems that time is one of those taken for granteds that we tend to live with because somehow it seems important. When one becomes time independent, when time no longer is the driving force in one’s life, rather it is merely an aspect that is useful some of the time, one must reexamine what it means to be time dependent.
When one has an appointment to keep, time is of the essence. I believe that if one is not ten minutes early one is late. Some people I know believe that being late is of little or no consequence. I rather doubt that they are aware of how disrespectful of the other this is. Appointments, it seems to me, are the only reason for a dependent response to time. Appointments consist of anything that adheres to a schedule: meetings, theater times, concert times, in fact any scheduled event requires an adherence to the clock. Nothing else need be a prisoner of the clock.
The taken for granted when it comes to time is that it is always important. I know people who believe there is a set time for everything and any deviation upsets the balance of the universe. There is a set time to eat all meals, to brush one’s teeth, to floss, to take a walk, to read a book, to work, to play, to watch tv, to write a blog. You get the point. This is a simplistic idea about time, it assumes the linear nature and the forward motion of time itself but this is, as I have written before, only a phantasmal approach to this very moment.
Someone recently objected that living in the moment absolves one of responsibility, that there can be no consequences for one’s actions. I argue just the opposite, that one’s awareness of this very moment as the foundation of one’s consciousness of time supplies the building blocks of an ethical, responsible life. Of course there are consequences for one’s actions. While one exists only in this very moment which is always already the source of the traces left behind, one also is afforded the ontological lived-experience of being in the world where one can and does interact with the other strategically located right there as a face. The passage through the lived-experience, the effect of being in the world, is to understand that for every action one takes over a string of moments has consequences, some good and others not so good. Living in this very moment does not imply a license to do anything one pleases. The existential moment of the lived-experience requires one to engage in the fundamental ethical obligation of being responsible for the welfare of the other. To come to this conclusion one must clearly explore one’s taken for granteds when it comes to the notion of the totality of time.
As I continue my battle with prostate cancer, now mostly the side effects of the radical prostatectomy, I am constantly reminded that I am living in the world. Time, however, has become less of a demand and more of a guidepost when necessary. I can eat when I am hungry, sleep when I am tired, shower when I am dirty, and all the while maintain a smile and a hearty handshake for the other. These are but a partial list of the rewards of living in the moment and I have my prostate cancer to thank for helping to unpack the taken for granteds I held about time.