It doesn't seem possible that it's June already. In England, we're potentially only two and a half weeks away from the government removing all Covid restrictions – no social distancing, no masks, no problem, right? But the number of cases is starting to rise again so we'll have to see how things play out.
Getting down to business...
"A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare."
From 'Leisure' by William Henry Davies
We value time. We spend it. It is a resource and an asset. Time is money.
We 'make' time but cannot add hours to the day, all we are doing is spending it in a different way. We make time by not doing something.
Time is constant but it drags, flies and somehow catches up with us. It is a conundrum and a contradiction. But forget all of the descriptions, analogies and metaphors, time is simply the rate at which things change, go from one state to another.
As human beings, we pride ourselves on our evolution, how we are more advanced than the other animals that inhabit this planet, but the downside to intelligence and self-awareness is the need for control. The more self-aware, the more we know, the greater that need or, at least, the need to maintain the illusion of control.
With our evolution came the acknowledgement of time and its cycles – time as we know it didn't exist until we measured it and that is possibly one of the worst things we have ever done as a species. Those measurements have become more specific over the millennia, from sweeping broad concepts based on our observations of the world around us to Atomic Time where its passage is measured by the tiniest of vibrations.
Accuracy is progress.
Our understanding of time lets us know when things are going to happen but enforces a rigidity upon us. Time is fluid, it flows, but we have artificially segmented it ensuring that each segment is full to bursting. Our obsession with it comes from not being able to control it, the real driver is the awareness, and subsequent fear, of our mortality. Understanding time reinforces how relatively short our lives really are, how quickly days become weeks, become months, become years.
Perhaps the one thing we would like to do most with time is forget it or, as a minimum, make it work for us so that we can make the most of it. We long to waste time – that is the dream, the utopian state – but, because of our obsession, time is the one thing we don't have to waste. Seconds, minutes, hours, days – we cannot unlearn the concepts, cannot put the genie back in the bottle, but what if we could forget the measurements, not do something, make time to just stand and stare? Being able to waste time is, in effect, a brag that we have achieved control. More likely, we would have completely abdicated all control, abandoned any hope of it knowing it is beyond us.
We need a return to those sweeping broad concepts of time – day and night, the changing of the seasons, the lunar cycle – everything turning full circle. It won't, can't happen unless we go off-grid, escape from it all, so we are better off seeking different measurements, and this is where I come back to a line from a couple of months ago:
It's a concept that I can't escape, one that I have gradually internalised, and would love to become the only measurement that matters.
I blog in days but not as a division of time, more as a reflection on the cycle of life — every day is a new beginning. Yet, the hang-ups of the evolved notion of time keep dragging me back, preventing me from treating each new day with the reverence it deserves.
It's going to take time to break (the concept of) time.
I finally got round to finishing Black Gum by J David Osbourne which I first mentioned back in letter 20 — I'd read about half of it but then stopped, likely distracted, and couldn't get going again. My mindset had shifted. When I mentioned this to the author he said:
"There are hundreds of reasons to not finish, and only two to do so: you're being paid or you really want to."
I really wanted to so dived back in and finished the rest in one sitting.
"After his life falls apart, a young man must navigate a drug-fueled world of juggalos and transients with Shane, a lowlife occultist with a penchant for body modification."
I'm not really sure how best to describe the book but it reads almost like a journal. It's real, gritty, irreverent — you can imagine someone sitting down at the end of the day and narrating a summary of what's happened to them. I suppose that indicates how successful the first-person perspective is. It is lots of little stories forming part of a bigger ... something. It doesn't have a classic structure; yes, there's a beginning, middle and end but what you think is the end gets cut off and we are dragged back into the thick of it – the real end is almost a mirror of the start but with a twist and multiple nuances that, once you let them soak in, provide such a rewarding conclusion.
There's not too much I can say without diving headlong into spoiler territory, I think I've already gone too far with that last bit, but would heartily recommend it. It wasn't the kind of thing I would normally read but that's more a reflection on me, something I hope this can help rectify. You can name a fair price for the whole Black Gum Cycle (so far) at the link above.
I'm also reading something else which technically hasn't been released and I can't talk about it yet. It's interrupted The Antidote which I've mentioned in the last couple of letters. I've been enjoying The Antidote but suffered from new shiny syndrome when I received an email and just had to dive in.
Still, my reading isn't yet back on track – maybe that's why I haven't been sleeping very well: I haven't been settling down with a book before going to sleep. Something else I need to rectify.
And that's it...
I'm getting ever closer to finishing "Words" – I'm hunting for a few more quotes to throw in but don't want this to become procrastination. As I mentioned on the blog, there needs to be a point where I say "enough" and not get paralysed by perfection. Soon! I think I need to set myself a target date and, once that hits, consider it done no matter what.
Until next time,
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