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Essay: On Time

Another 750words thing. I steal my subject from Montaigne, but the words are my own.


What is it to us in this day and age?

In the past, time could only be measured by the sun and the moon and the stars in the sky. The turning of the seasons and the growth of our crops. Time as we measure it today, in hours, minutes and seconds was unheard of.

Among the common men, the farmers and laborers, time was only something parceled out in chunks, named “the time I sleep”, “the time I eat my meals”, “the time I must work in the fields” and “the time I shall die”. Nothing more detailed than that.The invention of the sundial was the first step towards changing our way of looking as time as an entity into something measurable in definite terms. The hour came about. 

Perhaps it remained a rather foreign thing to the poor for a long time. Only in the army, for shop keepers and in the church the exact hour became important. The hour to start the battle, closing and opening times and the regularly scheduled mass on Sundays. For the common man who might not even own a sun dial, time was still measured by the sun and thus it still controlled their day. The midday meal was had when the sun was at its highest, the time to return home for supper when the sun began to set and getting ready for bed then the darkness falls and candles are too precious to waste every night, to light the darkness of their home. They would know when to go to church by the tolling of the bells and they would know to do their shopping when the day was bright. Shopkeepers would surely still keep to approximately the same hours as the laboring men.

But then technology advanced further, the watches arrived in the hands of men and now time could be divided into even smaller chunks. The minute and the second. One could literally see your life ticking by, second by second. What would that do to an idle mind belonging to the wealthy enough to actually own a watch? One would try and fill these ticking, tocking seconds with some form of work. Keeping an orderly home, reading, writing letters, planning social gatherings.

As watches and clocks became more common, they spread to the lower classes. An old grandfather clock would become a priced possession. They would say, ah…Now I do not need to listen for the church-bells no more! I can just look at my clock and see when the hour is close to mass and I must leave for church. The wife sitting at home with the small children can see when the noonday meal is close and can leave in a timely manner so that her husband and the other laborers can have their lunch
The servants of the rich will know when to start preparations for meals and other functions. Surely, this convenient way of making time must have been a great help.
At first.

The clocks and the watches, our ever present time keepers grew more exact, no longer needing to be wound up, they kept on ticking and tocking until the end of time almost. The wristwatch came about and now most every man and woman could have a handy time piece right there on their wrist. Time was always there, always present.
When the trains came and the public buses, they would need to have regular schedules, decided by watches and clocks. The passengers would need their own watch so that they would not miss their ride. Time became a part of our society. Everything is run by time. Government office hours, shops, schedules, even open celebrations ran by the clock.
And it did not stop there. When the digital era arrived a clock became a natural part of every computer. How else would it know when to perform certain tasks? Everywhere you look there is something that can measure time, measure your life ticking away slowly.

Today the wristwatch has in many cases been replaced by the cellphone as a timekeeper. With illuminated screen we can just peek at our shiny, glass covered companion, sometimes doubling as a phone and tell if we are late for the party or the bus. The wrist watch has been delegated to a fancy piece of jewelry. An accessory not needed by most people. They are so intricate and fancy that the time piece itself is almost impossible to read. So used to time that one form of timekeeping can be reduced to such a state. Our ancestors would be appalled at this waste.

And in every home you find at least two or three time keepers in some form. There is the clock on the movie player, the cellphone and maybe an alarm clock, unless the cellphone gets to double as that too. Some are excessive and perhaps own a decorative wall clock and maybe even a fancy, dolled up wrist watch to match their earrings or their new tie. A Rolex is still a coveted thing, but not for how well it tells time.
But what does it do to us, to have time shoved in our faces wherever we go, whatever we do. To be constantly aware that we can’t escape the passage of time and most importantly…That suddenly there seems to be so little time available to us.
When every bit of time can be measured in parts of a second, is it no wonder that our heart begins to race when we wake up in the morning and go over what we need to do that day. Work, and take the kids to school, do some shopping after work, pick up the youngest from daycare, go home, make dinner, help the kids with their homework and then somehow…Somehow have some time left to breathe and relax after the long day. Somehow have time to love and enjoy life.

Is it any wonder that we are more stressed today? Is it no wonder that people try to conjure up ways to make more time for the things we enjoy, instead of spending all that time on the musts? The essentials. Get rich quick schemes were born from a man who saw that lots of money is essentially a way to buy yourself more time.
What a wonder it would be, if all time pieces, all ways of measure time suddenly vanished and we would have to make do with what our earliest ancestors had; the sun, the moon and the stars.
What freedom we might have, after that chaos when people try to adapt to not being able to tell when parties start and bars open. What wonder it would be to step outside and not beable to tell how past time is passing unless we relearn how to read the sun. To just be allowed to exist, at our own pace, in our own time.
Perhaps we could have true freedom then. Freedom from the slavery of our watches.
Freedom from the ticking and tocking of time passing by before our very eyes.

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