People in an economic system based on production learn to live with the tyranny of the clock. Although people have been tracking time since the early days of humans, our relationship with time has become different.
Time used to be related to something going on in nature. People measured the hours of sunshine, the seasons, and how long crops took to grow. The day began when the sun came up and ended when it set. Our survival was directly related to what nature offered us and so our relationship to time was related to nature also.
Since the Industrial Revolution, we have changed our relationship to time and nature. We treat nature as something we control. It is understandable that we sought to control nature because we felt so out of control in relation to nature: the weather was so unpredictable, the basic needs of people were not being met, and disease was rampant. At the time, natural resources were so plentiful. So we created machines and production processes to harness natural resources to take care of our basic needs and kept on going. Time became a factor in production costs and therefore directly affected profits.
Time And Limits
There were understandable reasons for the economic system that we have created. Human society at the time of the Industrial Revolution was saddled with all sorts of limits that needed to be challenged. Some of these limits were based on belief systems. Some limits were geographical, others political. Even time felt limiting because we were limited by the amount that each person could accomplish which in turn limited our ability to meet our needs. Since the Industrial Revolution, the clock has been used as a tool for challenging limits through productivity measurements which evaluate how well we produce in a specific period of time. Our educational system is organized around time. We have a certain period of time to learn a given amount of material, whether we learn or not is often irrelevant, when time is up, time is up.
When the clock controls how much attention we give to something or someone, we relinquish control over our lives because we are not really engaging with life and the realities around us. If it takes two years to learn a subject but you only have six months, then essentially your learning is controlled by the demand for speed and will probably be pretty superficial. If it takes 2 hours to accomplish a task well and one hour is all that is allowed, again you relinquish control over the quality you are able to bring to the work by the demand for speed. If it takes a year to grieve the loss of a friend, and the people around you demand that you grieve quicker, then your life is diminished by the demand for speed and your health and ability to return fully to life may be negatively affected.
Speed And Sensitive People
The demand for speed is a serious issue for highly sensitive people since creativity, deep listening, and serious problem solving do not lend themselves to time pressure. Sensitive people inevitably suffer from distracting and unhelpful conflicts when they are expected to work under artificial, and unnecessarily restrictive time schedules. To the highly sensitive person production is not the end and be all of one’s work life. Qualitative considerations are more important than quantitative ones – within reason of course.
Being sensitive means that we notice the cost of our highly competitive and highly demanding capitalistic system. We notice the stress in ourselves and others, the loss of time for connection and the kind of deep teamwork that are satisfying and inclusive. We see the loss of our cherished natural environment and all the cost to animals and humans. I suspect that to most sensitive people the cost-benefit analysis does not read the way it does to an accountant. As a result, how we use time will also be different.
Time And Quality Of Engagement
Edward Hall, a cultural anthropologist, wrote in one of his books about how different cultural systems have different energies. When the Industrial Revolution began, children were trained to work in the energy of production, not the energy of the natural cycles of nature. They became acclimated more to the clock than to nature. We can feel the disconnection from nature that has come with mass production and how the social systems built around materialism have affected our ability to connect with others and with nature.
Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is changing our relationships with time and affecting our ability to engage in the typical activities of our capitalistic system, we are being offered the opportunity to reconsider our relationships to time and each other. This is actually a wonderful opportunity – one worth embracing. Hopefully it will lead to a renewed love of nature and a more relaxed way of living that benefits us all.