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.