Time’s Architecture

October 22, 2013

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean

Time has an architecture and most of its patterns follow the rhythms of Nature.  Our days reflect a single rotation of the Earth.  Our months follow the cycles of the moon.  Our years and their seasonal rhythms synchronize with the revolution of the Earth around the Sun.  But what is a week?

A week is a man-made construct.  Judith Shulevitz, in The Sabbath World, says that “the seven-day week was a by-product of the Jewish Sabbath,” established to mimic the Biblical six days of Creation followed by a seventh day of rest.  A week is a cultural, rather than a biological, phenomenon.

Over the years, I have internalized the week’s rhythms.  In my childhood, we went to church on Sundays, Mom did laundry on Mondays and Fridays, we baked on Saturdays, and we went to school on Mondays through Fridays.  Today my weeks have no such patterns.  I don’t attend church, my work days vary erratically over a 14-day schedule, and I do laundry when I have a full load’s worth of dirty clothes in the hamper.

Time does not feel like it is flowing smoothly these days.  I seem to be mourning the loss of a rhythmic week.

” . . . there is, for each of us, a proper sense of proportion and pace for subjective processes, as there is for walking or breathing; a right rhythm and scale of lived experience — of being-in-the-world — which we need to find for ourselves for the sake of our well-being, and of being well.”
—  Eva Hoffman, Time

What would be the right rhythm and scale for me at this stage of my life, when I still work for a living?  I believe a more optimal scenario would be to work Mondays through Thursdays and have Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays off.  But this isn’t going to happen.  It’s only fair that the “burden” of weekend work at the library be shared more-or-less equally among those of us who work there.  I need to find other ways of coping.

And for me, maybe that means moving away from the architecture of the calendar week.  To focus on each day, day by day, without seeking the structure of larger patterns.  After all, what is important is finding enough creative time, inner time.  And I think I might be able to find it within the rhythms of each singular day.  This will have to be enough.

“But in ordinary life, if we are not to succumb to illness, or fall into the rigidity of thoughtless routine, we need the space (so often equivalent to time) to make sense of what is going on within.  We need to acknowledge the mute motions of our interiority, and catch their drift through reflection or a sort of inner interpretation.  Sometimes we need to pause in order to listen to the inchoate movements of our thoughts and feelings, to let them meander in aimless free association, or crystallize into an unexpected insight.  . . . We need to give time to inner time.”
— Eva Hoffman, Time

It does seem as if the week is on its way to becoming obsolete, at least for me.  So many retail and service businesses are open on Sundays, and that means lots of people work on weekends.  Do they feel out of synch with American culture, too?   And how do retired people cope and shape the architecture of their time now that it is no longer constrained by the demands of work schedule?  It’s interesting to think about.

6 Responses to “Time’s Architecture”

  1. camilla wells paynter Says:

    Very interesting and socially relevant thoughts, Rosemary. This “inner time,” and time lived in accordance with our own values and priorities and gifts may be our most valuable commodity, and it’s important for all of us to examine how we are allowing that commodity to be used, how we are trading in it. I believe it’s Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, who asks readers to identify 5 or so “core values” and then identify how much of their time is spent living according to them. I found this a useful exercise. Who/what am I living for?

    We are often taught that we are being selfish to ask such questions (I’m fortunate and shouldn’t complain), but the truth is that the greatest service we can do for the world isn’t achieved through sacrificing this “inner time,” but through cultivating it.

    Stunning photo! Smoke and fire!

  2. Elisa Says:

    I do not see it so much as a time thing, so much as moments of expression of my individuality. The way ‘time’ is structured is more for erasing the ‘I’ and creating a fake ‘one’. Though, as for literal time stamps of the week, the worker bee drone comes to mind, a hording of the individual into a quiet nonresistant identical cog, working to contribute to the need to have the drone.

    Remember when stores used to close at 5 p.m.? Greed, I mean job creation, had to tell us that we needed to shop all night long and to do other things all of the time..seee we need to make a billion more televisions now? I bet that I didn’t get what was in my head about it onto the comment box in a coherent manner.

    • camilla wells paynter Says:

      I think your comment is more than coherent, Elisa. Downright wise, if you ask me, and very well put. As for Rosemary, I hope she is painting and not listening to us right now. 😉

  3. shoreacres Says:

    I was most intrigued by this: “Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, … asks readers to identify 5 or so “core values” and then identify how much of their time is spent living according to them.”

    If they’re core values, shouldn’t we be living by them 100% of the time?

    • Rosemary Says:

      Your writerly eye found the imprecise word in the quote, I think. Perhaps in context she meant priorities rather than values. You are right — we should live by our core values all the time. But taking actionable steps to live these values sometimes takes conscious commitment and prioritizing. For example, living healthily is a value, but finding the time to exercise until I sweat every day is something I have to make a priority, or it simply won’t happen. And there is a limit to the number of actionable steps I can make in a day. Right now I’m doing okay with two priorities — running 3 miles a day and painting something every day off work. More than that, and I’ll start failing.

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