The Mystery of Time

Time spent with a cat is never wasted time.
(Remembering Leo with a quote from Sigmund Freud.)

There was a young lady named Bright,
Whose speed was far faster than light.
She set out one day in a relative way,
And returned home the previous night.

"Time is an illusion"
- Albert Einstein.

However, it does not seem like an illusion, but an all too often cruel and relentless taskmaster. We speak of wasting time, killing time, losing time, battling against time. We have created a monster!

I looked at the clock
And a fear set in me
A fear of running out of time
And never being free.

"Clocks slay time. Time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels. Only when the clock stops does Time come to life."
- William Faulkner.

And in Lewis Carroll's view:
"Time is a magical being who sits on a black throne in a castle of Eternity. He has one human hand and one mechanical hand."

It was the mechanical hand which took over with the coming of our industrialised society, and created the necessity for clock time in order to function effectively. Time became organised into minutes and hours, assembly-line time became the norm, a time which is measurable, fixed, quantitative, concerned with fragments, bits and pieces, bites of information. Such a cultural time works well for an industrialised society, and is a necessary part of it.

But this cultural time has overwhelmed our older time, the natural time of Nature, of the seasons and the ebb and flow of the tides. As large numbers of people moved from rural life into the rapidly expanding cities, their lives became increasingly dominated by the brutality of assembly-line time.

Charles Dickens vividly describes this in his novel, Little Dorritt:
"Rattle me out of bed early, set me going, give me as short a time as you like to bolt my meals in, and keep me at it, keep me at it, and I'll keep you always at it, you keep somebody else always at it. There you are, with the whole Duty of Man in a commercialised country."

However, creativity can only live and flourish in natural time, and so writers, poets, artists and musicians in their artistic endeavours kept alive the alternative experience of Older time. Art gives us a completion of our experience, the coming together of fragments. It is not living from moment to moment, but living in the moment.

Performing musicians increasingly experience a conflict between these two kinds of time. The music we perform has been created in natural time, but we live, study, and perform in a society dominated by 'organised' or 'assembly-line' time. Our practising is contained in rigidly imposed chunks of time, we are forced to meet deadlines of exams, competitions, auditions. We are judged by criteria, ticking boxes, a world in which mechanical accuracy, predictability and technical gymnastics are prized above all else.

We move in time - music moves in time. But this is not metronomic time, or the 'playing in time' taught to us in childhood. 'Counting' keeps us in our heads, not feeling the music in our bodies.

The great jazz trumpeter, Miles Davis, said:
"Time isn't the main thing. It's the only thing."
And we know from his sublime playing that he was not talking about metronomic time.

We need to re-discover the joy of being truly 'in time', 'in the flow', at one with the music, which seems to play itself. Then we will experience a sense of timelessness, truly flowing in time itself.

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

(From Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot)

Finally, a plea from Jane Austen.
"Oh! Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always either too slow or too fast. I cannot be dictated to by a watch."