Time. “Respect Time” was one of the items on the original “little things that can change the world” note cards. (You can find that original list here!) Since then I’ve discovered a whole new relationship with time, but this was the beginning. And so in the best tradition of describing something, and, as I have a tendency to quote Alice in Wonderland when discussing time:
‘Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’ [the White Rabbit] asked.
`Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, `and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’
“Respect time” simply made sense. In the world of the industrial revolution, which was the origin of our obsession with clock time, people are deemed more efficient and reliable if they arrive at a scheduled starting time, if they show up for appointments a bit early, and if events begin when they say they will. We talk about not having enough time, about time management as something that makes us more efficient, and about how we rely on public transit and event schedules and agreed upon work day hours,
But the “respect” part of this expectation usually comes from other people’s expectations. Does the Jones family want you at their house a few minutes early or, if you show up at the appointed hour, are you the first guest to arrive and the hosts are just hurrying upstairs to get dressed? I know of churches that always begin services “on time” and others where, if you wander in 15 minutes after the hour, you still have time to settle into your seat. The classic, and cliché-ish, examples depend on whether your meeting occurs in the corporate US world or in the Caribbean (where time seems, to me, to be a general suggestion).
So “respect time” appears to mean different things to different people. “Don’t waste my time” is a classic response with it’s own memes and links in Google. For example someone named Karla Cheyenne has a board on Pinterest, that is apparently about relationships, called “Don’t Waste My Time.” Plus there are multiple Instagram links. (It seems that somewhere along the line, social media has become a standard for ideas and phrases.)
Which brings us back to why “respect time” is on the “little things that can change the world” list. Through our obsession about clock time, age, and time as a resource, time itself has become a major currency in our modern world. It’s part of experiments, surveys, and expectations. We talk about not feeling valued if people don’t respect our time. We talk about it as a limited resource. People talk time as equal to money and we are admonished to not waste it or allow others to misuse or demand it of you when it doesn’t work to your advantage. When I’ve spoken about changing people’s relationship to time, the immediate response is, “Oh, so you teach time management.” (The answer to that question is, “No!”, but that discussion comes later.)
People manage time in different ways. Before I could actually start using my first, triumphantly purchased, Franklin Planner, a colleague got me hooked on scheduling, and so managing time, with a Palm Pilot (remember those?). One friend keeps all his clocks set 20 minutes fast and claims this keeps him from being late. I’ve lived with someone who was always “late,” so you learned to work with that. I’ve lived with someone who never had to set an alarm clock and always woke up when he wanted to, even when it was off his usual schedule.
So, as we begin our discussion of time, which will be continued, probably as Facebook live posts, through Spirit Moxie’s new Facebook page Tango with Time, it’s important to remember to respect other people’s and your relationship with time. Remember your time is, in fact, yours. And so other people’s time is, in fact, theirs.
As hints of future posts, I’d like to leave you with two references. First, going back to Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter’s discussion of time:
Alice sighed wearily. `I think you might do something better with the time,’ she said, `than waste it….
`If you knew Time as well as I do,’ said the Hatter, `you wouldn’t talk about wasting IT. It’s HIM.’
`I don’t know what you mean,’ said Alice.
`Of course you don’t!’ the Hatter said, tossing his head contemptuously. `I dare say you never even spoke to Time!’
`Perhaps not,’ Alice cautiously replied: `but I know I have to beat time when I learn music.’
`Ah! that accounts for it,’ said the Hatter. `He won’t stand beating. Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock. For instance, suppose it were nine o’clock in the morning, just time to begin lessons: you’d only have to whisper a hint to Time, and round goes the clock in a twinkling! Half-past one, time for dinner!’. . . .
`Is that the way YOU manage?’ Alice asked.The Hatter shook his head mournfully. `Not I!’ he replied. `We quarrelled last March–just before HE went mad, you know–‘ (pointing with his tea spoon at the March Hare,) `–it was at the great concert given by the Queen of Hearts, and I had to sing
“Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!”
You know the song, perhaps?’. . . .
`Well, I’d hardly finished the first verse,’ said the Hatter, `when the Queen jumped up and bawled out, “He’s murdering the time! Off with his head!”‘
`How dreadfully savage!’ exclaimed Alice.
`And ever since that,’ the Hatter went on in a mournful tone, `he won’t do a thing I ask! It’s always six o’clock now.’
Thank you Charles Dodgson aka Louis Carroll!
And finally here’s an unnamed poem I wrote sometime in the 1980s that has, for me, been haunting this conversation:
Time has a silly habit —
Not of Marching —
We expect the march of minute hands,
But of pausing,
to notice incongruity
Languishing into unexpected afternoons
and eons ’til yesterday.
Carefully timed, it refuses
confines —bursting into
alarms or daydreams —
punctuated by phone calls,
silence mocking announcements at
10 minute intervals
Last weekend threatened Spring,
but trees knew better
Only tiny flowers expecting frost
Time knows buds as well as buses
and pendulums never moving
as the earth turns
and centuries vanish —
and a matchless universe
works to its own ends
Copyright 1985 S. B. Sedgwick
So “see you later” when we’ll talk more about time. It will all be on time at the right time. Questions? Thoughts?
Images from the top: