On the Continuous Coercion of Clocks

It occurred to me this morning as I woke up feeling disgruntled about my lack of sleep that back in the day they didn’t have alarm clocks. I wonder how different life must have been without alarm clocks and all the other “time keepers.” This question affords me the opportunity of questioning the very air that I breathe. I’ve never thought about the impact of time-keeping on “the good life” or “the life seeking the Divine.”

From the beginning, time has been something that people have tried to keep track of. It seems likely that individuals value the tracking of time insofar as it allows them to meet and collaborate with other individuals.

Tracking of time allows collaboration in that it gives those who are aware of that time the time necessary to prepare for that event. If God really is eternal, i.e., if God really is outside of time, then one might say that God does not need time, for he does not need to prepare for any sort of “collaboration.” (By the way, what does it even mean to say that a being is outside of time?)  In short, God doesn’t have/need an alarm clock.

What’s interesting is that the practice of timekeeping brings two opposing things: freedom and coercion. It brings the freedom to be in community and to collaborate, but it also brings about a society that is structured around that collaboration. Thus, individuals who want to be successful in a time keeping society must conform; they are coerced into collaboration.

If an individual does not value certain forms of collaboration, then the coerciveness of time becomes naught. Perhaps, then, it is correct to say that time is a mechanism or a vessel for either control/coercion or community. The subversive message of Jesus of Nazereth could perhaps be placed in this dynamic. We are taught, for example, not to value the “treasures of this world.” Thus, the times that this society designates for the acquiring of those treasures has no hold on me.

This is an interesting find: with time-keeping, we have a practice that necessarily (and simultaneously) brings about both positive and negative results. Is it possible to have one consequence and not the other? Seems like the answer is no. I wonder if this concept to be turned into/related to a theodicy.

There is at least one other sense that I value time. It is a measure of my conscious existence. It seems that I’m becoming more and more convinced that there is nothing after this, which scares the crap out of me. Every second that ticks pushes me further in a direction that I don’t want to go. I am subject to the anxiety of this sort of time keeping, but it is self-imposed. Is there a chance that through a deeper devotion and understanding of the Divine that I can learn to be free from the coerciveness of this time-keeping?

This winter break makes gives me hope that the answer to that question is yes. This break I had several evenings (after hanging out with friends into the wee hours of the morning and then watching the sun rise on my bud’s roof top) where I said to myself (and to God) before I fell asleep, “Its ok if I don’t wake up tomorrow. I’ve had an awesome life.” Perhaps Rumi was right when he suggested that our feelings about death are a reflection of the type of life we’ve been living.

Another part of me, however, just wants to to be true that I will be one with God when I die.

There’s some wrestling that needs to be done.



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