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February 20, 2013

No such thing as time

Screen Shot 2013-02-20 at 3.08.21 PM

An experiment, brought on by being in a peculiar state of mind earlier this afternoon, somewhat disaffected and impatient with every single book I thought about beginning, both fiction and not.

I happened to pick up Sophie Calle's "The Address Book" and lay down with Gray Cat and slowly made my way through it... napping (I think) and then, as I thought back to the time in my life when the events in the book transpired — Ms. Calle found an address book on the Rue des Martyrs in Paris at the end of June, 1983, then published the results of her investigation into the owner of the book by means of contacting the people in it, the results of her interviews and meetings appearing in Libération beginning on Tuesday, August 2, 1983, and concluding on Sunday, September 4, 1983 — I found myself really drawn back to those months in 1983, when I had just moved to Charlottesville from Los Angeles and was beginning my teaching job in the UVA Anesthesiology Department.

There was a wonderfully unsettling sense of traveling back in time but it was more like traveling parallel to the present, such that I got to thinking about how much my sense of time is the result of the clocks that populate my immediate physical surroundings. 

I carefully turned down the face of the digital clock in my bedroom, where I'd been reading, without looking at the time.

Then I went downstairs and did the same with the digital clocks in my office and kitchen.

That ended the possibility of seeing the time without making an effort. 

Just in case, I turned my two Casio wristwatches face down.

I'm guessing from the position of the sun and shadows that it's about 3:30 p.m.

Before I sat down in front of my computer, I carefully folded a couple pieces of paper over the top edge of the laptop's screen and taped them down so the time didn't automatically appear once I touched a key.

With those precautions in place, I began this essay.

Which will now be brought to a close and posted to appear at 4:01 p.m. today (for all I know it's past that time) so I can go out for a run — a long one, I'm thinking 10 miles, which should get me back home right around dark.

All that time and distance I'm going to ponder this extraordinary sense of time's elasticity that resulted simply from snipping the cord of observable minutes that I normally wrap around myself.

It could be the start of a whole new way of doing things.

After all, Gray Cat seems to do quite well without organizing her life around timed events: I could take a lesson.

February 20, 2013 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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20 years ago i spent a week at the Monroe Institute in Faber, Virginia. Not a clock on the wall anywhere and when you checked in you had to give up your watch for the week. After a day or two you started looking at the position of the sun or placement of the stars to get an inkling of what time it was and after a while the subject of time and what time is it just wasn't important anymore.

Posted by: rob | Feb 20, 2013 8:06:01 PM

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