Ticking away the moments
That make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours
In an off-hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground
In your home town
Waiting for someone or something
To show you the way
— “Time” by Pink Floyd —
It has been said the key invention that facilitated the Industrial Revolution was not in fact the steam engine. In reality it was the invention of the clock, which enabled the alignment of a human being’s life to that of a machine.
We needed people to work in factories with machines that required virtually no rest. With a desire for “maximum efficiency” we needed the workers to be as predictable, efficient, and reliable as the machines they operated. How can we run a competitive business with employees strolling in, eating, and taking breaks whenever they feel like it? Schedules were the answer – clocking in and out, set breaks, long hours, weekends, Monday – and clocks made it possible to coordinate human activity in this mechanistic way. You bet there was resistance – at first. How would you feel having your time taken away? Now, thanks to generations of children being “educa-doctrinated” by an education system strongly resembling an assembly line (no coincidence in the timing), we think nothing of it.
Alarm 4:50am. Out the door 5:05am. At swimming pool 5:20am. Swim 5:30-7:30am. School 8am-4pm. Swim 4:30-7pm. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.
Alarm. Eat. Commute. Work. Break. Work. Lunch. Work. Commute. Dinner. TV. Bed. Repeat.
Is this the way our bodies actually work? Like a machine? Programmed to eat, wake, and function at a set time each day? I find it harder to believe the more I observe in the world around me. Natural rhythms are in a constant state of flux and needs are unique to individuals. Maybe I am in more of a creative state this afternoon and tomorrow afternoon I feel like being active physically? Maybe I don’t want to eat lunch right now. I have a feeling every parent can relate to the challenges of regulating their child’s rhythms to a clock. We have an appointment and need to leave now!
Free Day to Do Nothing
Along the way I have been grateful to experience days where I have nothing scheduled. A free day, what a treat! I can do whatever my heart desires and don’t have anywhere to be at any specific time. A whole day was a real rarity for most of my life, but when it came I always took full advantage of the opportunity to do nothing.
My initial tendency to want to “do nothing” (or rather, nothing creative) is in line with the common belief of individuals ‘freeloading’. Give them what they need and they won’t do anything but sit on the couch. Certainly we see and experience this – it is the state we rebound into after pushing ourselves along a path that we are not excited about. I have spent all this time doing something I don’t like, I deserve this time to be lazy. Laziness is most certainly a symptom of a lack of inspiration and an indicator of a lack of passion, but it is not our basic nature, for even our ‘lazy’ and comfortable tendencies eventually reveal a nagging lack of a deeper fulfillment. It is this feeling that propels us along another path – the path of discovering our gifts so that we can give them back in service to our community. And this path will most certainly involve periods of “doing nothing” – it is perfectly natural!
Choose Your Time
Reclaiming my time has been a gradual process of realizing that in the end, I am always deciding what to do with my time. It means waking up whenever I happen to, without an external alarm. It means being able to go a whole day without looking at a clock, other than the sun or moon. It has meant the awareness of how often I would use time as an excuse or reason not to do something. Without any appointments or places to be, if I was saying ‘no’ to an opportunity, it became extremely obvious that it was me choosing to not take that path, not that “thing I have to be at”. How often I let time decide for me. A slave to the digits.
We remember our power when we realize that we decide what to do with our time and when we let go of using phrasing like “have to” or “need to”, indicating an external force bending our will. Choose to do what you are doing. And to take it a step further, tell yourself WHY you chose what you did – this will let you know if your heart is in it or if you are responding in fear. Why do anything with less than your full self? Passion, excitement, playfulness, and joy are great measures of this fullness. How many people do you know who’s time is their own, work is their love, and gift is their joy?
Certainly to function in today’s society a clock is necessary for planning and coordinating activities. Breaking away entirely from this dependency on planning with time has allowed me to step back and remember a clock’s function as a tool, not a master. It becomes our master when it pulls our thoughts away from the present moment. It becomes our master when it causes us to feel stressed, worried, anxious, or pulled in another direction. A clock returns to its role as a tool when we use it to coordinate activities and then release attachments to a specific unfolding of events, letting it flow naturally. I believe we can eventually and collectively release clocks from our reality.
A timeless life is one that remains present and aware that this moment is eternal and that now will always be your only chance to act. Eat when you are hungry, rest when you are tired, create when inspiration strikes, and give when your heart tells you. Be aware of how often you put things off to ‘do later’. Pick a day and plan nothing – wander wherever your inspiration takes you, see what unfolds! Play and have fun with your curiosity, this moment is precious!
And as always, keep dreaming!