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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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Jose Arguelles characterises human life as occurring within an artificial time that is separated from the natural rhythms of the biosphere’s (planet’s/universe’s) time. The clock is portrayed as an artefact of artificial time. Contrarily, the Law of Time is said to show that energy, combined with real time, equals art. Time, governing energy, is here positioned as inherent to naturally artistic creation.

From my experiment in time, seeing and studying the human as part of the larger self-evolving fabric of the biosphere, I came to the conclusion that the human is living in a time apart from the rest of the biosphere – an artificial time whose climax and termination is inevitable, for nothing artificial can withstand the force of truth. If the human is living in artificial time, the clock is an artifact whose system of measure has nothing to do with natural cycles but is a totally abstract standard, then there must be something called natural time. I will go even farther and state that not only is there natural time, but that there is a law governing natural time, and that is the Law of Time. Just as Newton only discovered gravity some 300 years ago, though gravity has always existed, so the Law of Time has always been in operation, even though it was just recently discovered…

The Law of Time is formulated very simply, and in some people’s way of thinking, rather unscientifically as T(E) = Art, “energy factored by time equals art.” All phenomena in the material world represent some state of energy, and every state of energy is governed by time, the resultant product of which is always something beautiful or elegant. Have you ever seen an ugly sunset? A hideous flower? Even if you examine a scorpion with some objectivity you will be amazed at the flawless and elegant manner in which its parts are organized. Yes, all of nature is organized by time to produce in you the sensation of beauty. And time itself, well, believe it or not, time is a frequency, and a frequency is not measurable by a clock. The Law of Time states that time is the universal frequency of synchronization. It is the nature of time to synchronize and to maintain all things in a condition of synchronization. Synchronicity, then, is the experience of real time. When we say that time is a frequency, we can be more precise and say that time is a universal constant expressible by the mathematical ratio 13:20. That is, the 13:20 ratio is the frequency of synchronization (Arguelles 2002, 3-4).

Arguelles, Jose. 2002. Time and the technosphere: The law of time in human affairs. Rochester: Bear & Company.

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Vanessa Ogle reports how in 1905, the Indian government sought to introduce a national, standard time, to engender geopolitical cohesion with other countries. Whilst a politically popular decision, Ogle notes that the media, and the Indian population, criticised such a change. The basis of this criticism was that the government had created an artificial, fictitious time, which had separated Indians from their natural, solar time.

In the face of what appeared to be a solid consensus among those canvassed, the Government of India moved to introduce the time five hours and 30 minutes ahead of Greenwich to the colony. The new time was designated as “Indian Standard Time,” to deflect from its potentially controversial “British” source…

In January 1905, the Government of India instructed the Public Works Department to introduce the time five hours and thirty minutes in advance of Greenwich as “Indian Standard Time” while in Burma the time to be adopted would run six hours and thirty minutes fast. As of July 1, 1905, all railways and telegraphs on the Indian subcontinent were to follow the new time…

The Government of India accurately anticipated the opposition to uniform time it was about to unleash, although perhaps less so its scope and intensity. Once more, it was Bombay, and to a lesser extent Calcutta, that became the focal point of collisions between deeply rooted urban identities and imperial policies. In 1905 as compared with 1881, protests against a new colony- wide mean time struck a much more anti- British chord than previously. Now it mattered that this was a time decreed by the British colonizers, that it was “British” time being imposed on colonial subjects. Twenty years after the Government of India’s first brush with time, under the changed circumstances of British rule in India in 1905, retaining local time became a matter of Indian national politics. Indians now perceived the change in official mean times as yet another in a long series of attempts by the colonial state to meddle with local and personal affairs…

Such was the situation when Indian Standard Time was to be introduced in the summer of 1905 on railways and telegraphs. Emboldened perhaps by similar moves of other local administrations, Bombay authorities suddenly made the decision to push for the adoption of Indian Standard Time for all official purposes and in government offices throughout the Bombay Presidency. In October 1905, the Government of Bombay asked the Government of India for permission to introduce the new time.

Outside the meeting halls of the Bombay Municipal Corporation, the general public was voicing its dislike for the new order of time evermore loudly. As with other time changes in Europe and North America, the new Indian mean time was criticized for being “artificial” and unnatural. “We are asked to forget our natural time, the same that we have been familiar with from times immemorial, and adopt the new ‘standard’ which the ingenuity of the Astronomer Royal has devised,” the newspaper Kaiser-i-Hind complained, adding that nature herself must be in rebellion against this time. Later, the paper proclaimed, “nobody has asked for artificial time” to replace a time “which Nature has given to us and which mankind has faithfully followed these eight thousand years at least.” A letter to the editors of the Bombay Gazette found the new time to be “fictitious.” Another newspaper established, “the solar time is really the true time which regulates the affairs of each Indian house hold” (Ogle 2015, 107-12).

Ogle, Vanessa. 2015. The global transformation of time (1870 – 1950). Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press.

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Martin Aronson describes baseball as the sport which is the most closely associated with natural time. This is because unlike a sport like football which divides its playing time into equal periods of humanly measured time, baseball’s playing time is open in a manner which reflects nature’s rhythm.

My basic premise is that in many rich and subtle facets of the game, baseball is a metaphor of life, mirroring its tempo, rhythm, and essential character. The most basic illustration of this is probably baseball’s association with the season of spring – indeed it may certainly be considered the prime rite of spring in our culture. Spring is, of course, the season of rebirth, and baseball renews itself each year in the popular consciousness just when the crocuses are poking their tips out of the earth in the first stirrings of the revival of nature after winter’s end.

One need not belabor the point that spring is also associated with youth and innocence, conjuring up a whole magical world of childhood memories, of which baseball is a great part for many of us. There is a natural connection among spring, youth, and baseball, recapturing that carefree time of simple heroes, boyhood cheerfulness, and the capacity for pure joy before all the worldly woes of adult life dulled our sensibilities…

The basic association of baseball with spring and youth has further implications in terms of life and, indeed, cosmic cycles, so I should like to consider baseball as related to the phenomenon of time. Baseball, it could be argued, is the sport that reflects the truest expression of natural time in its tempo and texture. Unlike football and basketball, for example, it is divided into innings and half-innings (not fixed, measured quarters), retaining natural breaks and shifts from offence to defence. In its actual pace, it accelerates at points of action and excitement, then reverts back to a relaxed, casual undertone, very much like the great game of life itself. Some may criticize it as boring, and perhaps at times it is, but that is the balance and rhythm of nature…

In keeping with this theme of the essential naturalness of baseball, I’d like to direct your attention to the basic open-ended structure of the game. Baseball transpires in a timeless world; you can throw out the time clocks, scorning them as reality does. There are no set periods for the duration of action, no artificial time constraints. Like nature, a baseball game takes the amount of time it needs to run its course and complete itself. It will not be hurried, circumscribed, or aborted (hence the extra-inning game). It is interesting to note that the course of action during an afternoon game will often follow the rhythms of the day, reflecting the phenomenon of time passing from the bright cheer of the late morning, to the sharp focus of midday, to the shadowy light of late afternoon. And even after the last out of the game has been recorded, the ghost of time lingers, for win or lose, good day or bad day, there is always tomorrow – and the next day, and the day after that – always the promise of a new beginning, a new time to redeem and develop. That is Life, friend, if you learn how to master the mystery of time (Aronson 2006, 12-14).

Aronson, Martin. 2006. Cogito: A collection of essays. New York, Lincoln, Shanghai: iUniverse.