26 October 2007

Thoughts on time

My watch battery died a couple weeks back. It gave up its silent ticking and tracking of life about the same time I was reading Tom Hodgkinson's book, How To Be Free, a follow-up to my personal bible, Hodgkinson's much better book, How To Be Idle of a couple years back. In both books, TH urges us to lose our watches, to become free of time constraints. A watch is a handcuff to the incessant demands of society, contributes to our sense of busy-ness, responsibility, and duty to an overly organized and ordered life. Freeing the chains of time frees us to think, relax, loaf, saunter, and reflect. Without a time-keeping handcuff bound to our wrist, we can bust out of these bounds and begin living a freer life.

We do, in fact, over-program our lives. I do mine certainly. There's too much to do and not enough time to do it all. Whenever I'm asked what I want for Christmas or a birthday, I ask for more time, knowing full well that's something no one but me can give. There's a time to be at work, for buildings to be opened and closed. The kids have to be at school on time, and they have to be picked up so there's time to get them to ballet, and soccer, and piano lessons at the proper time. Ten families depend on me three times a week to be on a grassy field to organize their kids into a 90 minute soccer practice. I can't be late getting there and they have to leave right at six to get their kids to the next scheduled activity. The expectations and schedules of multitudes of others depend on our strict individual adherence to this man-made construct of monitored time. Seems a shame, don't it?

Over the years I've been both frustrated and awed by the very real concept of "Indian time". At the risk of being hopelessly un-PC and overly stereotypical, if you've worked any length of time with American Indians, as I've had the pleasure of doing, you quickly become familiar with a more flexible attitude towards time. Meetings or gatherings begin when everyone arrives, and people will arrive when it's time. We'll take the time necessary to get it done. Or maybe we won't get it all done this time, but we can find another time to finish it. We'll end the gathering when it's time to end it. There's a lot to be admired in this vision of how the earth and society moves forward. There can be a lot of frustration certainly, if we find ourselves bound to a stricter interpretation of time, but wouldn't a more relaxed accounting of how we get together and make things happen help us enjoy life more fully?

But what are the alternatives to watch wearing? I've found there are certainly plenty of places to keep track of time without strapping myself to a timepiece. The bottom right of this here computer, for instance. The VCR, microwave, and bedside alarm clock. The clocks in our cars, on the banks, on our cell phones, on the wrists of our friends and coworkers. Really, life without a watch is not that difficult.

Now, I'm learning how to run my soccer practice without the aid of a watch. We have the pleasure of a practice field next door to the local catholic church. Soccer practice begins with the 4:30 bells, with warm-up, stretching, and dribbling & ball handling skills running 'til the five deep gongs at the top of the hour. From there 'til the 5:30 chimes, we teach and coach, learning new skills or reviewing old ones. Finally, a scrimmage takes us up to the end of practice with a final whistle blown at the end of the 6th gong. It works. It's become part of the rhythm of our practice, and it's all done without a sweaty leather band that reminding me to check every few minutes to make sure time still marches forward.

And no annoying tan lines either.

I'd write more but I need to get my kid back from a sleepover so we can get her fed, dressed and showered before our 11:30 game, for which I need to be at the field and ready to go promptly at 10:45.

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