Monday, 31 March 2008

"Only fools are enslaved by time and space."

Time is ridiculous. The human concept of time is an invention; a method that our ancestors invented to organise the essential temporality of existence. Being creatures attuned to four dimensions, we are inexorably temporal; enslaved by the steady flow of time – seemingly in one direction only. So our ancestors made up an arbitrary system to section off the sequential movement of the sun into 24 little chunks and then further section each chunk into 60 smaller chunks and then section each chunk into 60 more smaller chunks. Now a second is universally recognised as the time it takes to say ‘One Mississippi’. This system of time makes it easier to sequence events and forms the basis of an undeniable human truth that everyone accepts: ‘things happen’.

And so, humanity views the 24-hour clock as sacrosanct – an absolute certainty. The length of a second is certain and fixed. People take this perception of time to be objective and universal; built into the very fabric of our minds (even though relativity theory has now shown that time is relative and is as affected by the weird forces of the cosmos as anything else). If someone decided to move their clock back two hours and have their 6pm at everyone else’s 8pm, they’d be seen as wrong. Just plain wrong.

Yet the sacred nature of absolute time is completely ignored two days of every year when British Summer Time begins and ends. Based upon the premise of saving daylight, the whole continent of Europe changes every clock twice a year without question. Frankly it doesn’t make any sense. If we as a civilisation are going to use this system of absolute serially ordered time, why should it ever be changed? Why don’t the people who desire more daylight change? Shouldn’t changing the clocks be a voluntary activity (having said that, it’s not like we’d be arrested if we refused to change our clocks)?

In the 1790s, France adopted decimal time following the French Revolution. Humans, being creatures of habit, failed to accept the new 10-hour scheme much preferring to stay with the less common-sensical 24-hour clock. The whole scheme only lasted two years. The French tried again in 1897 but that was formally abandoned three years later. ‘Swatch Internet Time’ is not exactly the same measuring system but it follows the same common-sense principle: that our current system is too arbitrarily complicated. Obviously everyone understands the standard 24-hour clock but that doesn’t mean it’s as efficient as it could possibly be. Britain has changed to metric measurement and metric currency; the next logical step is to change to metric time. Rather than obey the whim of an arbitrary 24-hour clock we should follow the slightly-less arbitrary system of mathematics – it would be so much easier for the next generations if everything were divided into 100s and 10s instead of 24s and 60s.

Now that society has established a system of organising time, humans will never be able to cope without one. The species has crippling itself into endless temporal sequencing through reliance on the rotation of the planet. Events no longer happen one before another after another; they happen at unique, discrete points in our system. The A-Series of time versus the B-Series of time.

For some reason our brains are attuned to work temporally and so we’re forever trapped by our own perception of the relentless march of time. What’re you gonna do though? ‘Things happen.’

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