Americans’ Obsession With Time

It has been many years since I passed through Grand Central Station, depicted in the image of this post.  It is a rather amazing place, if one is of a mind to stand to the side and just contemplate the movement of humans through this beautiful edifice.  As I recall, few people might be observed just standing waiting, for at rush hours in NYC, as anyone who has been there knows, if you stand still you will get run over.  Sad, but true.

As I say, I haven’t been to NYC in a very long time, but I vividly recall that each time, during the day when we were attempting to “make hay,” we were always in a trot to get somewhere.  Only in the evening, did the mass movement recede to the point where you could stroll along, which I took good advantage of, sightseeing, and cabbing to Greenwich Village to take in my favorite cuisine, jazz.

So it seems that we Americans have sort of a mathematically sliding scale sense of time, somewhat a “fuzzy” logarithmic perception it would seem.  We seem to think we have control time by stepping on or easing off our private time “mini-warp” pedals.  Each person, living in different environs also has their biases applied to their sense of time, whether innate to their temporal sense, or due to being caught up in a shared mass sense of time, such as the commuters moving through Grand Central twice a day.

Time is also at best an elusive subject to even discuss.  Our daily sense of time as Americans is typically purely temporal, but for some people, they have “escaped” temporal concerns, and are living in a more spiritual time base, not overly worried about today or this moment, thinking more in terms of being along an infinite time line.

We Americans sense of time may be rightfully said to be owned by we Americans.  One can look to any other country or area, or even tribal groups around the globe and each will have their own sense of time, the marking of time in their respective histories, and several having no sense of time, nor even tenses nor words to even recognize the “movement” of time (or humans movement along time?).

Time as a dimension in theoretical physics also becomes something really cool, as any Star Trek fan well knows.  But, sigh, for now we each are stuck with our “personalized” time.  In the day-to-day (7 x 24) world of America’s workdays, time equals money.  Everything we do in the workday, if it is about our work, time and money are for practical use, the same domains.  Projects work against deadlines.  Why? To minimize cost and maximize profit.  Perhaps artists and musicians are not even immune to this, for artists may have a date to make an art show, and musicians have time = money sessions in studios.

No doubt this aspect is not just an American phenomenon, but is typical of “developed” countries.  However, that sense of time, the sense to maximize profit by constricting time, does vary across the industrialized world, and it is proven in some societies for employers and workers to be less concerned about the extremes we live with here, while they also experience greater work/life balance, and actually spend less time working.

Having recently retired I can say that one can definitely adjust to a “time change.”  My days, as with most retirees, seem quite long, like time has stretched, and I have “more time” to do the things I want to do.  There is truly a joy in not feeling the pressure that most Americans works under, driven by this American sense of time.

So I do hope for America’s sake, we can find a way to alter our sense of time, and our purpose for even being here.  Can we carve out more time to relax, allow our minds to be still, to be led to a sense where there is no time, just a state of joyful being?

OK, I have run out of time I allotted to write this!  Bye for now.

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