I recently received a note from Scott Thrift, an inventor of two clocks–ThePresent, which slowly carves out the year according to the natural rhythms of the seasons, and Today, whose “silent movement” is said, according to the MOMA Store, to simplify “the day into the perfect balance of dawn, noon, dusk, and midnight.” It is a return, no less, to preindustrial life and, in this respect, suggests the deconstruction of the clock whose ubiquity led to the “time-discipline” necessary to transform pre-industrial “hands” into time-bound industrial Workers. Or, perchance, it is an essay at a post-turn.
Credit: Scott Thrift, Kickstarter Campaign (2016).
Scott wrote to me about an article I’d written, in May 2018, about “time famine,” the experience of time being a “finite resource” which one never “has” “enough of.” In that article, I conclude with a question:
After countless philosophical conversations over the years with individuals working in Silicon Valley, on Wall Street, and beyond, those for whom “time famine” is their default mode of being, I’ve come to believe that what must be discovered instead—and this is no easy thing—is the contemplative stillness that exists beneath any pace of life, whether fast, fluctuating, or slow, that sense of abiding peace that T.S. Eliot once so beautifully called “the still point of the turning world.” How to find that abiding peace, that ground of Life, really is the question.
That question–“How to find that abiding peace, that ground of Life, really is the question.”–still tarries in the wind.
Many wish that modernity would move more slowly. That is fine and so, but that is not enough. I wonder, still, what is beneath the movement of time, however slowly it is perceived to go, however rapidly it is thought to be passing. Is not the present, when properly understood, not punctuality but, in truth, eternity? Indeed, could there exist eternity not misunderstood as what is ever-long nor even as what is everlasting but rather as the ineffable beyond the bounds of time? I think so.
This is what deep meditation teaches: when the sense of a separate self drops away, so does time, that flowing river, as we know it. And so is disclosed, as the Bible so beautifully says, that abiding peace that surpasses all understanding. Modernity is yenning, just yenning for that stillness beyond stillness, for that stillness that is the ground of all movement and of all rest. Let us find ourselves here.