Is it our culture or our nature that we live with such a constant awareness of time? Every devise I carry for some other purpose, such as my phone and iPod, also contains a clock and a calendar. Every vehicle holds a digital clock on the dashboard reminding me of the exact moment in which I am driving. Every classroom contains a gigantic, sweep second-hand, analogue device to make certain that I start and stop on time. The upper-right hand corner of my MacBook Pro reads “Thu 10:28 AM.”
We are time beings. As far as I can tell, other species have a concept of time only in the broadest sense of seasons for migration, reproduction, preparation for survival. Wild geese measure winters. Oaks measure centuries. We are occupied with 40 hour work weeks, 30 minute meals, and one minute management.
Time, for us in the West at least, is tied closely to tasks. The books on time management (and I have read my share) are really about task management, occupied with the question, “How do we get the most important things done most efficiently?” Our clocks and calendars are about work, really. Seldom are they about leisure.
In other parts of the world, it is different. Time is for people and relationships. Tasks come in second. Meetings start late because of an untimed conversation at the market. People take precedence.
In 1987 Ray Stevens wrote one of his profound lyrical pieces – “Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?” I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t. But then, I suspect he wouldn’t wear a Timex. He seemed to operate much more in the present, with an awareness that “the night comes when no one works.”
William Martin , in The Art of Pastoring: Contemplative Reflections, observes that only two questions are important for the living of our lives: “Where am I?” and “What time is it?”. The only correct answer to the first question, he says, is, “I am here.” And the only correct answer to the second is, “It is now.” How often we expend effort with a concern for another place and another time, as if there were a place more important than here and a time more significant than now.
I don’t need a watch or a GPS device to be aware of the here and now. This is the time and place in which I draw breath and have an opportunity to love, to experience God, to be alive.