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Noel Gallagher describes time as that which falls from the sky, and then slips beyond our control no matter what intentions we might have in interpersonal/social contexts. In noting that time has a source which transcends the human realm over which he and other humans have greater control, Gallagher duly asks what time will hold for him.

I took a walk with my fame,
Down memory lane,
I never did find my way back.

You know that I gotta say, time’s slipping away,
And what will it hold for me.

What am I gonna do while I’m looking at you,
You’re standing ignoring me

I thought that I heard someone say now,
There’s no time for running away now,
Hey now! Hey now!

Feel no shame – cos time’s no chain,
Feel no shame.

And time as it stands,
Won’t be held in my hands,
Or living inside of my skin,
And as it fell from the sky,
I asked myself why,
Can I never let anyone in?

Gallagher, Noel. 1995. “Hey now.” (What’s the story) Morning glory. London: Creation Records. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl5DRpBqs4Q

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Keiichiro Fujisaki portrays a clock, which graphically represents the regions of the world which are concurrently either in sunlight or shadow, as a recognition of the difference between natural time and artificial time. Whilst natural time is indicated by the sun, artificial time is said to be illustrated by the time zones.

In the morning, the birds all begin to sing in unison.

The passage of time is different from country to country and region to region. Different cities may be in the same time zone, but as the clock strikes seven in the morning, some may already be experiencing bright daylight, while in others the sun may not even have risen. Earth Clock affords a sweeping view of these various times around the globe. Yoshiaki Nishimura of Living World explains:

“Despite the fact that it’s as broad as the U.S. (excluding Hawaii and Alaska) when measured from east to west, China employs the same standard time throughout the country. The time difference between India and Japan is 3 hours 30 minutes, but the time difference between here and Nepal is 3 hours 15 minutes. Time differences of 15 or 30 minutes are used by certain countries to distinguish themselves from their neighbors, so in a sense they can be referred to as time borders. So among other things, time is a political tool.”

Indeed. I remember hearing stories about how at the western extremity of China the Sun would be directly overhead at three in the afternoon. The terminator marches on regardless of things like manmade national borders and standard time zones. Says Nishimura, “I had in mind the question, What would time be like without the influence of time in industrialized societies?” So Earth Clock was born out of a recognition of the contrast between artificial time and natural time.

“In the morning, the birds all begin to sing in unison as the terminator passes. On the opposite side of the globe, the sunset side, dogs start barking and crows return to their nests. Although in the cities, which increasingly operate around the clock, we live according to artificially designated time with little regard for whether it is day or night, the world at large is overwhelmingly governed by natural time. The terminator turns relentlessly like a music box. Frogs start to croak and birds start to sing. I find this kind of thing fascinating, and I’d always wanted to express this somehow in my work” (Fujisaki 2007).

Fujisaki, Keiichiro. 2007. “Natural time, artificial time: Earth Clock Report Part 1: Living World.” Living world. 14 January 2007. http://www.livingworld.net/blog/fujisaki-2/

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Michael Flaherty explores the difference between the subjective impression of time’s passage, versus how much of that time has actually passed. The distinction is established between a reality of time, and contingent impressions of time.

Time flies. For centuries, this has been one of the stock phrases in Western civilization. But, on occasion, we are struck by the sense that time has passed even more quickly than is usually the case. This is to say that, in particular circumstances, it feels like much less time has elapsed than has actually been measured by the clock or calendar. Regardless of whether the relevant interval is ten hours or ten months, it seems to those of us in such circumstances that a much shorter length of time has gone by. Therefore, we can refer to this sensation as “temporal compression” (Flaherty 1999, 104).

Flaherty, Michael. 1999. A watched pot: How we experience time. New York: New York University Press.

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Barbara Adam illustrates that in social science perspectives, natural time is positioned as distinct from its social conceptualisation. This assumption is bred from general impressions that social scientists have about the separation of natural and social phenomena.

In contradistinction to social science analyses this research shows that most of what social scientists preserve exclusively for the human realm is generalised throughout nature. It demonstrates that the characteristics identified with natural time are in fact an exclusively human creation. Past, present, and future, historical time, the qualitative experience of time, the structuring of ‘undifferentiated change’ into episodes, all are established as integral time aspects of the subject matter of the natural sciences and clock time, the invariant measure, the closed circle, the perfect symmetry, and reversible time as our creations. This investigation thus establishes natural time as very different from its social science conceptualisation. Furthermore, it shows that it matters what assumptions social scientists hold about natural time and the subject matter of the natural sciences in general as these not only affect the definition of social time but also the understanding of the nature of ‘the social’. Since our traditional understanding of natural time emerged as inadequate and faulty we have to recognise that the analysis of social time is flawed by implication. However, the difficulty extends beyond the need to achieve a more appropriate understanding of natural time since the assumptions associated with this understanding are embedded in the more general theories that social scientists hold about nature (Adam 1990, 150-51).

Adam, Barbara. 1990. Time and social theory. Cambridge: Polity Press.

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David Miller interviews Pagan teacher and author Waverly Fitzgerald, who says that natural time in her book is a reference to a time that can be touched. Conversely, artificial time is characterised as a temporality that is abstracted into homogenous, identical parts. Fitzgerald notes that the rhythms of natural time intersect with Pagan spirituality.

[Miller] You make a distinction in your book between what you call “natural time” and “artificial time.” Isn’t time really an abstraction? So how can it be natural?

  • [Fitzgerald] That was my quest (in writing the book), to answer that question. What is natural about time? And the answer had to do with looking at different time intervals and noticing that some of them you can actually see, touch and smell. You can tell when it’s day and when it’s night. You can observe the moon in the sky and after a few days of observing it you can know whether it’s waxing or waning. You can know what season it is by walking outside. These are all, for me, examples of natural time. What I noticed about all of those cycles was that they were, in fact, cycles. They had, if you will, an “on” and “off” position, or a maximum and a minimum. And then they had a slow gradual progression to and from that state. That’s really different than when you look at a calendar, a schedule or a clock, where everything is completely regular and all times are presumed to be exactly the same. There are blank spaces on the calendar, and you can put the same amount of activity into each of them. There is this sort of unnatural — that’s why I call it artificial — aspect to them, which I think gets us in a lot of trouble because we think, “Oh, we can do this thing in this amount of time,” when really all of these other factors play into it that are not under our control.

You’re not suggesting we throw out our calendars and clocks, are you?

  • No. There are really good reasons why those tools were developed to synchronize activities. But I think as biological beings we also need to be aware of our natural rhythms, including the need for rest. I think many people believe that when you sit down at your desk you should be working flat out at the top of your productivity for the maximum amount of time. At least that’s the ideal. But there something called the ultradian rhythm, a biological cycle where there is an arousal period, a period of waking up and becoming alert, and then a period of getting restless or bored or unfocused and then a time of rest. If you start to observe that cycle in your life, it allows you to have a more relaxed and effective approach to your daily tasks…

How and why do religion or spirituality and slow time intersect, do you think?

  • Most of the major religions have a seasonal liturgy, even though it may be sort of buried. If you look at Christianity, with the Easter cycle and the Christmas birth, there is this lovely use of the seasons to tell a story, and the same is true in the Jewish religion. And, of course, the pagan religion really works with this notion of the seasons and the cycle. So there is a very deep connection between this notion of cyclical time and spirituality. And there is a message of hope that things will come around again, that we may feel despair but spring will come again. It is a pretty profound metaphor that is imbedded in our lives (Miller 2008).

Miller, David. 2008. “Pagan teacher and author of “Slow Time, Waverly Fitzgerald talks about rethinking her relationship to time.” SFGATE. January 28, 2008. https://www.sfgate .com/living/article/Pagan-teacher-and-author-of-Slow-Time-Waverly-2525444.php

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Paul Gitting reports on the lack of control that humans have over the natural temporality of grass growing rates. This is distinguished from the ways that different rates of growth can be experimented with technologically. This latter form of growth, identifiable in court management at a tennis tournament, is a socially framed phenomenon that is opposed from a natural timing of grass that cannot be rushed.

Wimbledon grass faces Olympic race against time and nature.

Andy Newell from the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) gives Wimbledon head groundsman Eddie Seaward and his staff expert scientific advice on that preparation and admits that any delay into a third week would be a serious problem.

“They don’t want to lose time because they are already on such a fine edge and even a day would mean you lose 5% of your preparation, and that could be crucial,” he told CNN…

“We worked on them just a couple of years ago to prove to LOCOG that we could do that within a short period of time, get the courts back in pristine condition,” Seaward told CNN.

But trial run or not, it’s still a daunting prospect with little room for error. The grass must be cut to an exact 8 millimeters for optimum performance, and Seaward and his team have to keep a wary eye on that unpredictable British weather — ground temperature and humidity levels are constantly measured.

For this reason, the expertise of scientists and agronomists is so important. STRI has been advising Wimbledon for over a decade. At its main testing center in a little corner of West Yorkshire, in northern England, its staff have recreated their own versions of Centre Court — trialing different varieties of grass to provide the best and most resilient surface.

“We can test the grasses that they may use in the future here, ” said Newell, STRI’s head of turf grass biology…

Newell believes that the soil texture underneath the grass is just as important in determining the playing characteristics, but knows that when hosting the biggest sports show on earth, aesthetics are important.

“The idea is that we get the court to look the way it’s going to look on the opening Monday of Wimbledon.”

But he warned: “It all comes back to nature, and nature can’t be rushed.”

Gitting, Paul. 2012. “Wimbledon grass faces Olympic race against time and nature.” CNN. July 5, 2012. https://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/05/sport/tennis/tennis-wimbledon-grass-olympics/index.html

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Eviatar Zerubavel argues that no calendared construction of the week was ever an inevitable occurrence. Rather, the week represents the cultural division of natural cycles into useful structures for social routines. Social time thus exhibits constructed elements not apparent in natural time.

The week is not an inevitable natural necessity and, despite its pervasive presence in so many parts of the world, it is by no means a universal phenomenon. This apparently “indispensable” cycle can actually be found only in those civilizations that either generated a complex divinatory system (for example, the Hellenistic world, Central America, Indonesia); developed a market economy (for example, China, ancient Rome, West Africa); or have come under the influence of Judeo-Christianity or Islam with their distinctive extranatural liturgical cycles. The significant feature that all these civilizations seem to have in common is that they cherish regularity, and it is thus only that they have produced the particular mentality which seems to characterize the sort of “homo rhythmicus” who has invented the cycle known as the week.

Essentially revolving around the experience of recurrence, the circular conception of time encourages the establishment of rigid routines, which promote structure and orderliness by making our life more regular as well as more predictable…

There are many routine activities (such as shopping and family visiting) that we would like to perform on a regular basis, yet which, unlike brushing our teeth or changing our underwear, need not necessarily be performed every day. At the same time, however, we also may not want to have to wait a full month in order to perform them regularly rather than on an ad hoc basis. Nature, which has given us both the day and the month, has not been of much help in our search for some convenient cycle in between them. (Unlike several other planets, Earth has no other, closer satellites with shorter orbits than the moon.) Faced with the disappointing lack of any major natural cycle that is longer than the day yet shorter than the next available natural cycle, which is almost thirty times longer, various civilizations, quite independently of one another, have tried to fill this natural gap by inventing such a cycle themselves. Hence the evolution of various forms of the week in so many parts of the world (Zerbubavel 1989, 85-86).

Zerubavel, Eviatar. 1989. The seven day circle: The history and meaning of the week. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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Katrin de Guia reviews the conception that time in the Philippines is regulated not by clocks and mechanical measures, but rather by more natural patterns. These patterns are said to include the sun, seasons of harvesting, and lunar cycles. As a result, Philippine Time is described as more natural than other cultural times.

Philippine Time, some say, is experiential time (Mercado, 1977; de Leon, 2008). It is “cosmic time”, not “clock-time”. Rather, it is “organic time” – cyclical, oscillating, approximating, alive! It is a “felt time” filled with memories and contemplations – not the repetitive staccato of machine time, or the sterile on/off bytes of computer time.

A researcher once asked Filipino farmers about their concept of time (Nicado Henson in Pe-Pua 82). She reported that none of those rural folks measured time by such things as a watch, even though some of them owned one. Instead, these natives measured time by the sun; by lunar and by planting cycles; by harvesting seasons; or by the time span it takes to smoke a cigarette. To the despair of some foreign investors and urban administrators, “Filipino Time” has endured in the Philippines. Where no cash exists, or where money is not valued enough, the dictum “Time is Money” does not hold (de Guia 2013, 187).

Guia, Katrin de. 2013. ‘Indigenous values for sustainable nation building.’ Prajna Vihara 14(1-2): 175-92.

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Gail Weiss argues that subjective time, and the time of clocks and calendars and planetary movements, are not mutually exclusive. In describing how clock time is embedded within corporeal movements, and vice-versa, Weiss likewise suggests that planetary movements are integral to clocked representations of time.

One danger of emphasizing the gulf between temporality and time as I have done thus far, is that it makes us liable to forget the ways in which our own lived experience continually traverses the divided between them. For surely it is overly simplistic to say that time, as measured by calendars, watches, sundials, and the movement of planets and stars, is “out there” while our temporal experience is within us; rather, we “inhabit” time and are inhabited by it, through our own bodily rhythms and movements, and through the interconnections between our own durée and the durée of all that we encounter. Indeed, to the extent that the conventions of clock time are themselves based on the movement of the earth around the sun, clock time is not merely an external, analytical device that helps us negotiate our everyday affairs, but is based on corporeal movement, movement that is inscribed in our own bodies (Weiss 1999, 112).

Weiss, Gail. 1999. Body images: Embodiment as intercorporeality. London and New York: Routledge.

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Maurice Bloch, when commentating on Clifford Geertz’s characterisation of the dual calendars by which the Balinese population live, presents the point that an unconditional sense of time’s cultural relativity is overly reductive. Nevertheless, Bloch posits that a culture’s everyday, social concepts of time, are not true concepts of time.

[T]he Balinese evidence does not support the view that notions of time vary from culture to culture, it only shows that, in ritual contexts, the Balinese use a different notion of time from that in more mundane contexts and that in these mundane contexts categories and classification are, it may be assumed from Berlin and Kay’s findings, based on cognitive universals. Furthermore, the nature of the contexts where we find these cognitive universals itself suggests an explanation of their presence. Durkheim, like others after him, rejected the notion that cognition was constrained by nature, by pointing to the variability of concepts, especially of concepts of time; but if he is wrong in this, his objection cannot hold. What is more, since it is in contexts where man is in most direct contact with nature that we find universal concepts, the hypothesis that it is something in the world beyond society which constrains at least some of our cognitive categories is strengthened, though this need not be nature as an independent entity to man, but, as I believe is suggested by Berlin and Kay’s data and foreshadowed by Marx, nature as the subject of human activity (see also Rosch 1975)…

I am not making the empiricist mistake of thinking that concepts as concepts are given in nature, I am only talking of the constraints of nature on thought given the human condition. In this I am following Piaget (1968). It would be nonsense to say that our everyday concepts are true concepts of time. The notions of time held by physicists are not remotely like folk notions of time. On the other hand my position is totally opposed to that of Levi-Strauss who argues that nature in this respect is an unordered phenomenon only ordered by culture in whatever way the logic of thought takes it (Bloch 1977, 285, 290-91).

Block, Maurice. 1977. “The past and the present in the present.” Man 12(2): 278-92.