Andrew Kimbrell characterises the time of most sports as restricted by artificial, mechanised time-frames that evoke industrial efficiencies and productions. Baseball conversely is closer to a natural time with no pre-defined end point on a clock.

A Celebration of Natural Time

“The Clock doesn’t matter in baseball. Time stands still or moves backwards. Theoretically one game could go on forever. Some seem to.” —Herb Caen, noted columnist

Baseball has no use for standardized, digitalized, mechanized time. The other major sports have strict artificial time frames reminiscent of efficiency-driven industrial production (as in “time is money”) or militaristic action (as in “synchronize your watches”). Football has four fifteen-minute quarters (and of course “sudden death”), basketball has four twelve-minute periods, hockey has three twenty-minute periods, soccer two forty-five-minute halves. Baseball, by contrast, is played in natural, not artificial, time. There are no seconds ticking away on scoreboards, no two-minute warnings, no buzzers or buzzer beaters. Actually, it isn’t just the baseball game that could continue eternally—each of baseball’s nine innings, in fact, each of its eighteen half innings, could theoretically go on forever.

In our hyperactive, ADHD world, this meditative, “real life” time element in baseball has been called its downfall. The game is too slow, we are told, for the modern age. Mary McCrory once wrote that “Baseball is our past football our future.” Let’s hope not. It is true that a baseball game can seem like six minutes of action crammed into two-and-a-half hours. Pitchers and catchers give, receive, or shake off signs; batters step out of the box; other players or coaches go visit the pitcher to give advice or encouragement; pitchers nervously pace or blow into their hands between pitches. For the most part though, to the baseball fan, the natural pace is far from boring. In fact it’s experienced as a crescendo of cumulative tension. Any parent of a Little Leaguer, or fan during a crucial major league contest, knows that a game can indeed seem like “a nervous breakdown spread over nine innings.”

The timing of the baseball season also is a celebration of the year’s seasons even if in a bittersweet way. As Bart Giamatti wrote: “It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”

Kimbrell, Andrew. 2012. “In Praise of Baseball.” Tikkun August 30, 2012.


Mariska Pienaar portrays human time, in the constructed form of measurable units, as a conscious or unconscious representation of environmental time. Furthermore, human time, when described in terms of one’s life stages, is said to reflect the temporality of the Earth’s seasonal progressions.

The preceding sections of this article focused on how our natural environment, either consciously or unconsciously, evokes in us an awareness of time and death, and a consequent search for meaning in life, a search that often evokes existential and death anxiety. Following the ecopsychology principle of reciprocal influence (Roszak, 1992, 1998), this section of the discussion will focus on how our existential awareness and search for meaning leads to human constructions of time. It has been argued that an awareness of time and death causes the existential search for meaning. Although time is something perceived as existent within the human field of awareness, of course humans also need to construct time in a meaningful way.

Our contemplation of time in terms of meaningful units has caused it to become an essential factor in ascribing meaning and value to stages, conditions, and actions in life. Hereby, time has moved from being an external, environmental reality to becoming a human created framework for valuation processes.

The most fundamental way in which time has become a human construct is represented by the creation of the basic units of time. Although of course informed by the natural cycles of the Earth, human beings have constructed time into the basic units of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc. These conceptual units of time have come to be time…

A second example of the way in which time has become a human construct is the division of a human life into ‘‘life stages.’’ These stages of course start at infancy and continue through childhood, young adulthood, mid-life, and old age. The construction of time into life stages has enabled us to conceptualize specific important stages and landmarks in the progression of a human life. The division of human life into stages closely, and most likely not at all coincidentally, resembles the Earth’s cyclical progression from one season to the next. As such, the Earth’s spring symbolizes infancy through adolescence, summer symbolizes young adulthood, autumn midlife, and winter may be said to symbolize old age (Pienaar 2011, 28).

Pienaar, Mariska. 2011. ‘An eco-existential understanding of time and psychological defenses: Threats to the environment and implications for psychotherapy.’ Ecopsychology 3(1): 25-29.


Émile Durkheim characterises time exclusively by the divisions created by social symbols and rituals. Durkheim recognises that the framework for this symbolisation and ritualisation is seasonal, natural, and cosmic. However, that societies each regulate time differently, illustrates that natural forces are external to the social causes of time.

What if one tried to imagine what the notion of time would be in the absence of the methods we use to divide, measure, and express it with objective signs, a time that was not a succession of years, months, weeks, days, and hours? It would be nearly impossible to conceive of. We can conceive of time only if we differentiate between moments. Now, what is the origin of that differentiation? Undoubtedly, states of consciousness that we have already experienced can be reproduced in us in the same order in which they originally occurred; and, in this way, bits of our past become immediate again, even while spontaneously distinguishing themselves from the present. But however important this distinction might be for our private experience, it is far from sufficient to constitute the notion or category of time. The category of time is not simply a partial or complete commemoration of our lived life. It is an abstract and impersonal framework that contains not only our individual existence but also that of humanity. It is like an endless canvas on which all duration is spread out before the mind’s eye and on which all possible events are located in relation to points of reference that are fixed and specified. It is not my time that is organized in this way; it is time that is conceived of objectively by all men of the same civilization. This by itself is enough to make us begin to see that any such organization would have to be collective. And indeed, observation establishes that these indispensable points, in reference to which all things are arranged temporally, are taken from social life. The division into days, weeks, months, years, etc., corresponds to the recurrence of rites, festivals, and public ceremonies at regular intervals. A calendar expresses the rhythm of collective activity while ensuring that regularity…the course of natural phenomena, the rhythm of cosmic life set its mark upon the rhythm of ritual life. Hence, for a long time the feasts were seasonal…

But the seasons merely provided the external framework of this organization, not the principle on which it rests, for even the cults that have exclusively spiritual ends have remained periodic. The reason is that this periodicity has different causes. Because the seasonal changes are critical periods for nature, they are a natural occasion for gatherings and thus for religious ceremonies…Yet it must be acknowledged that this framework, although purely external, has shown remarkable endurance…The form of this cycle is apt to vary from one society to another. (Durkheim 1995 (1912), 9-10 & 353).

Durkheim, Émile. 1995 (1912). The elementary forms of religious life. Translated by Karen Fields. New York: The Free Press.


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.


Mark Smith observes that with the proliferation of clocks and watches during periods of American slavery, plantation owners forced slaves to move from a temporality which naturally revolved around the sun and stars, to an existence governed by the clock. Whilst natural time and clock time are not entirely divorced for Smith, a distinct transition between them is apparent.

Nor should we be misled, as Michael O’Malley has wisely counseled, into thinking that a naturally derived understanding of time (time defined by sun, moon, wind, and a host of other naturally occurring phenomena) necessarily precludes a commitment to clock time. Not only is the dichotomy false, not only is nature itself sometimes as frenetic as the clock (as humans find when planting and harvesting, for instance), but there is evidence suggesting that natural time and clock time are in many respects complementary. Both are largely cyclical in their movements, and the regular, perpetual movements of the clock are to some extent mirrored in the rhythms of the seasons or sun. Naturally derived, task-oriented, and clock-regulated forms of time measurement, in short, coexist in any society, the most modern included…

Under modernity, the clock becomes a fetish: the clock is time itself, and clock time develops an apparent autonomy and hegemony. The dictates and needs of the capitalist mode of production ensure that the clock is used to control workers, measure labor, increase efficiency, and heighten personal time discipline in order to coordinate workers and society generally. Given these imperatives, clock and watch ownership under capitalism tends to increase considerably. Conversely, in pre-modern societies, clock time is usually bound to religion and has little secular significance or function…

Before anyone, whether master, industrialist, or worker, could reduce time to money, however, they had to dilute, or at least modify, age-old Christian imperatives stressing that all time was God’s time. According to Jacques Le Goff, this process began in the Middle Ages, when “[a]mong the principal criticisms levelled against the merchants was the charge that their profit implied a mortgage on time, which was supposed to belong to God alone.” But God was not the only impediment to secular commercial time. According to Le Goff, “Like the peasant, the merchant was at first subjected by his professional activity to the dominion of meteorological time, to the cycle of seasons and the unpredictability of storms and natural cataclysms.” To rationalize time, European merchants used God’s time by recruiting the aural power of his church clocks to coordinate city life and the times of markets. “The same process for the rationalization of time,” Le Goff points out, “was responsible also for its secularization.” Once this rationalization was under way, mercantile activity, while “distinct and, at particular points, contingently similar,” to God’s time, became regulated by the clock. And it was the dual forces of God’s temporal imperatives and merchants’ commercial time that provided the historical basis for the rise of clock consciousness among workers and managers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Slaves remembered the clock and watch and testified that they had come to accept, albeit grudgingly, timed agricultural labor under slavery. Although they originally came from societies where natural time was predominant and that same reliance on natural time remained important to them, southern slaves, like nineteenth-century urban-industrial workers, found their reliance on sun and stars as exclusive arbiters of time attacked and, ultimately, undermined (Smith 1996, 1435-37 & 1461).

Smith, Mark. 1996. “Old south time in comparative perspective. American historical review 101(5): 1432–69.


Robin Parry notes that whilst the eternity of God transcends the natural temporality of the created world, natural time governs the seasons. Seasons in the Torah refer to religious and sacred festivals. In this impression, natural rhythms, including the periodic emergence of the full moon, are believed to regulate the temporalities of collective rituals.

The cultic association of the sun, moon, and stars – that they are the lamps in God’s cosmic temple – brings attention to a central focus of the author: “Let them be for signs (otot) and for seasons (mô’adîm), and for days and years.” The word translated here as seasons (mô’adîm) is always used in the Torah to refer to religious festivals, sacred seasons, and not merely the natural seasons of the year. The sun and the moon are given important assignments vis-à-vis Israel’s cultic festivals. It may be that the sun and moon are assigned roles over two kinds of time: sacred time (signs and festivals) and ordinary time (days and years).

With regard to natural time we may note that the stars were used to predict the seasons. They were also used to tell the time at night (when sun dials are not much help) and allowed an accurate prediction of when sunrise would happen. So they functioned somewhat akin to calendars and clocks.

With regard to sacred time we should note that ancient Israel used a lunar calendar and that its “appointed festivals” (mô’adîm) were regulated by this calendar. Thus Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Tabernacles all occur on a full moon. The “new moon” (hodes), the first day of the month, was also celebrated as a religious festival. What is fascinating about the creation of the sun, moon, and stars in Genesis 1 is that part of the reason that God made them was to regulate the rhythms of Israel’s worship – natural time and sacred time were linked (Parry 2014, 114-15).

Parry, Robin. 2014. The biblical cosmos: A pilgrim’s guide to the weird and wonderful world of the bible. Eugene: Cascade Books.