The clock resting precariously near the edge of my nightstand is perpetually ten minutes slow, as it has been for the years I’ve had it. No matter how many times patient fingers hit reset, only to scroll through 24 hours to alight on the correct time, the little clock gradually loses ten minutes, though always only ten minutes.
I tend to think the poor clock’s problem aligns with my lifelong obsession (well the nearest thing to obsession I’ve ever had) with time.
Deep down I know that time is fake, made up, a distant record of humans’ fondness for order. But I like order, to say the least, a testament to my dozen or so Moleskine notebooks that litter my life: plans, appointments, musings and the like litter their pages. Yet I despise the notion of time. No, I’m not one of those perpetually late spirits that haunt the back of lecture halls, alerting the rest to my presence by a creaking door. No, I always find myself early to meetings, content to survey the near surroundings. Still, I staunchly don’t believe in time and its control.
It seems that in every conversation, time is a factor, whether we calculate someone’s age or their time at the company or just how long they’ve had that Mercedes. Without time, we lose much of our ability to make small-talk (the bane of every subway commute and dental appointment) and the ability to judge/discriminate against others – how outdated that flannel jacket is, how young that mother when she had her child, how old-fashioned is that idea…
Time is a way for us to judge people, places, objects on absolutely no meaningful grounds whatsoever, a way for us to sneer at something without having logic to back it up. There’s no essence for us to dislike something, so we dislike something about which our intended victim cannot defend. “You wouldn’t understand. You’re too young.” I would much prefer to be ageless, rather than be met with a patronizing adjective. However, my mother, who sells youth for a living and who is on an eternal quest for it herself, would give anything for that particular meaningless term: young.
If what is on the inside counts, as good societal values say it should, why do we choose to mislead ourselves by hiding behind time? Stopping people from entering or exiting our lives or simply living their own by a notion of age? “No, she can’t live alone, she’s almost 85. She must be senile.” We trap ourselves, no matter where we fall on the age and time spectrum.
So perhaps instead of being a century of recapturing youth, we should focus on detaching ourselves from parasitic time and become simply what we are: become simply a car that runs well, not a car from 1983, become a woman with two children instead of a 56-year-old woman with two children. The former of both allow judgment, whereas the prior do not.
So, as for me, I am a woman who is a sometimes scientist, always writer with a clock….that, well, runs.
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