Clock time and natural time

Posted on December 8, 2008
Filed Under liminal space, meditation, mystical journeys, Taylor Ellwood | 8 Comments

I’ve been thinking further about natural perceptions of time vs clock time. Jean Houston, as far as I can tell, was the first person to overtly note a substantial difference between clock time, and natural or internal time, in her book The Possible Human. However, As I’ve been musing on this subject, I’ve also noted that even in everyday consciousness the perception of time can vastly differ depending on how time is measured. Let me give you an example.

An acquaintance and I were discussing the formation of modern education in the U.S. the other day. The modern education system was developed during the industrial revolution as a way of moving people out of an agrarian approach to life and more towards an industrial model. In an Agrarian approach time is measured by when the sun rises and sets. It isn’t parceled down into hours and minutes, and instead is much more rhythmic, in tune with the day light. Now take people out of that approach to life and put them into a factory, and you end up having an issue, because the way those people approach time affects how they approach work. To get around that you put them in a setting where they are educated about time through the example of having periods of time that are used to measure how long they are in class and how much time they have for a break. And then afterwards they are trained for a very linear approach to work. You have only to look at today’s average work day to see this in effect. So many minutes for a break, so may for how long you work, the rest you schedule what else you want to do.

That conversation came up in way that I’d say was odd, if it wasn’t for working with the spider goddess of time. Ever since I worked with her, she’s been showing up in different ways and while I didn’t see her when I was having this conversation, I definitely felt a divine nudge that there was a lesson here, and was reminded of my classes at clarion, where this very subject was discussed at some length as to why classrooms are arranged the way they are spatially…it’s a factory setting. Students lined up in rows, ready to be processed and put on the line.

I’ve had a few moments of alternity, where time has seemed to stretch out. I get that every so often in general…time expands, my sense of possibilities changes, everything seems elongated, crystalline, fitting together perfectly. I’ll see it occasionally as I drive, but sometimes as I walk or doing something else…time stretches out, becomes a parchment of silver webbing, shining strands of possibilities, and the sense of time changes, becomes much less overt. It’s only when I look at a clock that I’m really brought to a linear awareness of time. The clock constrains, restrains, and otherwise confines a sense of time to a very immediate moment. I look at the clock and I see a specific time: 9:29:39 and only that moment exists. Everything else, all other possibilities fade in the glowing green digits of time that express exactly this one moment of linear time, which my entirety exists in.

I can see why clock time has become so prevalent, so important to the work world for instance. It is the engine which drives people to perform for whoever they work for, the way of rating the exchange of life for the means to sustain that life.

Yet how much is missed out on in the obsession of clock time, when we lost the natural rhythms of life to the growing gleen digits that mark out how much time is left for a person to work, or for that matter to live? Where is the seamless experience of time as not just one moment, but a sea of infinite possibilities, or the silver paths of the web the spider goddess lives in? We find it when we can let go of clock time, let go of the need to look at the very face of time that binds us…When a day becomes much more than just one hour passing after another…it becomes full of possibilities and adventures and so much else.

Give me natural time any moment of the continuum

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