I shot an interview last month with a Keene State College professor who had two clocks on his wall. One had no numbers, just the hands. I had to mention to him between takes how much I liked his clock. It’s provoking, I thought, to take the numbers out of time… Then he gestured to the clock behind him. That’s when I noticed it was moving backwards.
This past week and a half off my regular routine has made be believe that time has no meaning outside the social sphere. Whether that’s passing a stranger on the street while walking home from work or going to a holiday party or meeting your colleagues for lunch, we all travel through space on a particular timeline. Without a routine or schedule, time becomes irrelevant.
Meeting that same person at the coffee shop every morning may not be a coincidence, as people are so keen to believe. It’s time. Time has its own logic.
When I traveled to Vanuatu in two thousand five I was introduced to island time. It’s sort of an ‘I’ll see you when I see you,’ but then there’s something more than just that. Socially, there is a strong notion of time and place in relation to community rather than numbers, a notion entirely foreign to Western clocks. In Vanuatu, you don’t ‘keep’ time. It just sort of happens. Maybe it would be that way in the Western world, too, if we weren’t so possessive.