we are captives of the clock

“What time is it?”

My kids – as early as when they were 5 or 6 – used to ask me this a lot. Especially for little beings who couldn’t do much with the information.

I would always respond, “Why, do you have an appointment?”

It made me kinda sad that they were already so concerned about what time it was.

Maybe I’m misremembering but I don’t think I asked my mother what time it was very often.

Unlike my kids and most kids of their generation, my friends and I spent most of our time outside without parental supervision or any clue what time it was. We knew that when it got dark we would soon hear our parents calling our names to come home.

And yet, it feels like I’ve always been aware of clock time.

The lowdown on clocks

Clocks in some form – hourglasses, sundials, water clocks – have been around for a really long time. Wikipedia says it’s one of the oldest human inventions.

However, the accurate timepieces and standard global time system we have today are only about 100 years old.

100 years of clocking in and out of work.
100 years of overriding our natural rhythms with unnatural hours, minutes, and even seconds.
100 years being captives of the clock.

We get very few reprieves.
When we do, it’s in moments where we are unaware of time.
Like when we’re in flow. And then it feels like the hours fly by.

Our sense of time is being hijacked so we don’t experience what it is to be flowing with – or in – time.

Instead, most of our days are chopped up by activities, tasks, responsibilities that are almost all directed by clock time. So we check the clock a lot.

This reliance on artificial time is reflected in many of our devices.

When I’m working in my kitchen, I can see the time on the microwave, on the stove, on the range hood, on the giant analog clock on the wall. And of course, on my phone and laptop.

Whether or not you sleep with your phone beside you, you’re likely to check the time within seconds of getting out of bed.

It’s so strange that this is how we live.

We have timekeepers everywhere.

Keeping us confined to a system that keeps track of human-made time at the cost of our inherent humanness.

When we live without clocks, we sync up with the world around us by going with the flow of our body’s internal systems and with those of the people we’re with. (See here and here.)

With fewer years ahead of me than behind me, I feel a deep yearning for this kind of synchrony.

So, I’m trying a few things to get a taste of it.

I’ve already changed the settings on my computer to hide the menu bar so I can’t see the clock unless I move my cursor to the top of my screen. Plus I’ve changed the time display to be like an analog clock – it’s tiny and way less in your face.

I also plan on going clockless for a day in February.
And maybe this can become a more regular thing.

I’m curious to see how it all feels.



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