The invention of time



I am overwhelmed.

I don’t know about you, but the past few months have really stressed me out in ways that I never thought imaginable. With school, work, friends and everything else that I have to do, sometimes I wonder how I get it all done. I know that I should do less, but I can’t seem to decide what to get rid of, so I just do it all.

I am not alone in this; I know you probably feel the same. So I ask why are we so overstimulated?

I blame the concept of time.

You might think, like I once did, that time has always existed, but you would be wrong.

Clocks are a result of the industrial revolution. Scholars like E.P. Thompson have deemed clock-time a Western invention aimed at controlling the public, and if you really think about it, it’s true.

Our society obsesses about the utterly mindless concepts of time and efficiency.

We fill our time with as many things as we can to maximize our personal efficiency. We also allow our clocks to rule the way in which we live our lives. We go to work from exactly 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., not a minute late. And in the process, we stress ourselves out over issues that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

We have become a society that cares more about respecting time than respecting people. In gaining wealth, we sacrifice the relationships and connections that make us human. And the worst part about this crisis is that we are not even aware that it is occurring.

The concept of adhering to time is so ingrained in our culture that we don’t know that there are other ways to live.

Some cultures still live in ways that use time but are not controlled by it. Generally, these countries are deemed as “underdeveloped,” but I think we could learn a great deal from the ways that they choose to live.

While living in the west African country of Ghana, I learned to devalue clocks. After the first week or so of making plans at a certain time and waiting hours for people to show up, I threw away my watch.

This simple act freed me, and since then I have refused to wear a watch. Sure, I have the time on my phone, but I refuse to carry an item whose sole purpose is controlling my life.

During my six months of living in Ghana, I learned a lot about facilitating personal relationships and the importance of putting time aside.

Though it was hard for me to altogether forsake the notion of time, I tried my best. And at the end of my trip, I was really glad that I did. I learned to relax, appreciate what I saw and focus on quality relationships with people instead of getting a lot of things accomplished. Things took a lot longer, but it was worth it.

Upon leaving Ghana, I felt so enlightened. I thought, “Wow, I really have learned a lot from this experience, and I could not wait to practice it my life in the U.S.” Unfortunately, this task was a lot harder than it seems.

It’s hard not to care about time, when everyone around you does. I can’t just go into work or class late and say, “Well, I did it in Ghana.” Rather, I have to respect time.

But, respecting time is very different from allowing it to rule your existence. I have tried my best to be in places like work and class on time. But, in informal settings with friends and family I prioritize them higher than time. I try not to make solid plans like meeting from 2 to 3 p.m. on Friday. Rather, I say how about sometime Friday, I let them call me when they are free, and we spend time focused on each other rather than thinking about the hour restriction that we have to abide by. 

Though we can’t all stop time’s power in our lives, we can minimize it. We can choose to focus on the people in our lives and discontinue our obsession with time. By doing so we can have longer and happier lives with those whom we love, and I don’t know about you, but I would choose that before efficiency any day. 


E-mail: tmkennel@indiana.edu

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