Tuesday, 1 November 2011


This past Sunday, British Summer Time ended and it was the first time in several years (for me) that I have experienced 1am twice in the same morning. The truth  is, I couldn't distinguish one "1am" from the other, and personally for me, not much changed between the two.

Time however, is something that  I have been thinking about a little, of late. My feeling is that we spend "time" trying to manage "time". Ironic, I guess, but when we live in a world where we are pressurised by "time" and surrounded by debates about whether we should allow our bodies and minds to follow a natural flow of time rather than an invented notion of it, there are thoughts around the subject worth exploring. Sometimes, for example, we look back and wish we could reverse time, but that begs the crucial question about whether there is such a thing (physically speaking) that can be reversed. If one second is barely different to the second before, I wonder if the measure of time is sometimes something of an arbitrary exercise. 

German Mathematicians and Philosophers Gottfried Leibniz (July 1, 1646 – November 14, 1716) and Immanuel Kant (22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) were classical time 'sceptics'. In their works they broadly argue that time was relative and not absolute. And whilst there's a converse view too, of course, that proposes that time is a fundamental universal structure, for now I want to explore my own thoughts on this which sides with the view that time does not exist.

According to Leibniz and Kant, time would be disconnected from age and the process of getting older. Even Antiphon (Greece, 5BC) argued that time was unreal. John McTaggart (3 September 1866 – 18 January 1925) famously wrote a book entitled, The Unreality of Time. Time therefore, just is - something we talk about and little else. I'm inclined to agree. We have limited 'time' on Earth, but we have dreams and desires that go way beyond our lifespans. And perhaps right now that is where the accepted norm of time bothers me the most. Not time itself, but what we think it to be and our desire to control something that barely exists.

To fulfill everything we hope to achieve we think that we need more 'time' and during the North European winters, we attempt to control 'time'* by adjusting clocks. One of the reasons clocks moved back and forth every autumn and spring is that we try to capitalise on daylight by playing with 'time'. What we don't accept is that our natural selves may well be best suited to less activity during winters and that is the way it is. Instead we change time and continue to force everyone into the same 'time' patterns in a bid to keep up productivity. It was, for a time, a creative solution. But whilst, human creativity is good, but is it wise to continue to pretend we have created more 'time' just by fiddling with the clocks?
*by switching between BST to GMT in Autumn and then back in Spring

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