“Time is a construction of our consciousness.”
( Maria Popova)
The clock faces of the Musée d’Orsay literally offer a view through time. From inside the museum restaurant you can see past the hands and numerals, across the Seine to the Louvre, up the sky-line of Sacre Couer and beyond.
Helpfully, when France adopted Paris Mean Time in 1891, the external facing clocks of the then Gare d’Orsay would display Paris Mean Time while the internal clocks and schedules would be set to run 5 minutes late to ensure tardy passengers did not miss their trains.
It seems that our relationship to time has always been elastic but now, like rushing travellers, we are often feel that time is somehow running out on us.
A while ago, I was working with a group who were insistent that they didn’t have time for considered dialogue on some critical, far-reaching investment decisions. They were rushed and impatient with each other. When I asked what they would have time for, one of them responded, “You see, Steve, this is us. We don’t have time for this. We have time to get it wrong 14 times… but we don’t have time for this.”
If I look to some of the critical, far-reaching decisions that we collectively face now, it is increasingly important that we should not be distracted by the notion that we don’t have enough time.
Things are urgent, but let’s not rush.
Our modern world of train schedules and productivity, accounting quarters and key performance indicators requires time to be linear, regimented, controlled and scarce.
But the reality is that time is made up.
Time is an abstraction that has served us well but also brings a shadow: “We don’t have time for this” is a bid for control and a step away from collaboration, participation and democracy.
However, anything that we have made up can be transformed and the first step towards a way of living and being together that is commensurate with the real rhythms and cycles of our world is to make time for each other.
True conversation and connection, deep thinking and creativity are emergent, and have their own qualitative rhythm rather than the tick-tock of mechanistic predictability and control.
And, if we choose to work carefully, consciously and together, there is always enough time.
As I thought about this writing, I looked back into some of my favourite old texts. ‘The Passion of the Western Mind’ by Richard Tarnas has some interesting thoughts on our understanding of time.
Timothy Morton’s ‘Being Ecological’ is a fascinating if challenging read. Among other things, he links considerations of time, prediction and outcome. It’s rich material. One quote I like: “The question at the end of the round table wants to see ahead and anticipate what to do, in advance. That’s what we can’t do. Because we have been driving in the wrong direction - that’s exactly why all this happened.”
My more recent reading includes An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture (Block, Brueggeman and McKnight). They say, “Busyness or lack of time, is the common argument against Democracy. Oscar wilde said he was for Socialism, but it took too many evening meetings.’
And finally from my buddy John Higgins, co-author of ‘Speak Up’ who tells me to, “Drink coffee. Make crap decisions faster!”