Saturday, 16 February 2013

That Tyrant Called Time

These are just some off-the-cuff thoughts I had last night.

At what point did people use "five minutes" or "twenty minutes" as colloquial measures of time? It's not just that I am being excessively and inaccurately precise when I say, "Just give me five minutes." It's that I do not think five minutes would be an interval of time that would be meaningful to humans for, well, probably most of our history and prehistory.

I remember the teacher in my Grade 12 history class saying that one of the big impacts of the Industrial Revolution and the movement of workers from cottages to factories was that, for the first time ever, people were expected to arrange their day according to the clock, not the sun. Of course this applied more to factory-workers than to non-factory-workers, so I wonder at what rate the reliance of clocks to structure life spread into other facets of a person's life.

When did people schedule not just work but social appointments according to the clock rather than the sun?
When did people begin to carry watches?
At what point did timepiece technology become reliable enough that you could reasonably expect another person's watch to be within five minutes of your own?

In other words, when did promptness become a virtue? And tardiness a sign of disrespect? When did we become slaves to the clock?

Of course, I am being misleading when I make this only about watches and clocks. The church bells or the muezzin would measure time in many parts of the world (as I think it was Joan Chittester who said, time of day used to be sacred). While those of us in the north are used to the sun's movements fluctuating across seasons, in equatorial regions the sun is as regular a time-piece as you could want. Sundials and hourglasses are very old time-keepers. But I still wonder about those phrases and the attached virtue of promptness.

(And as far as the virtue of promptness goes, I think that reliable transportation also has something to do with it.)


Anonymous said...

I'm sure that your intentions are leaning in the right direction... however, if you want to proclaim Maurice Beauregard as some kind of "saint", you are sadly mistaken.

I attended the school in Fort McMurray to which he held mass (or whatever you call it!)

I was personally assaulted in a sexual way by Maurice Beauregard. I was too young at the time to realize what had happened. A few years later, I witnessed him fondling one of my classmate's breasts. There was no mistaking it, it happened!

Be careful who you chose as a hero, because most of those bastards have slimy trails behind them....

Christian H said...

I am horrified to hear this. I'm not sure what post you are referring to, but I shall try to find it and make an editor's note.

I wish you the best.

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