Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Telling Time

I finally broke down and added Facebook's Timeline to my Facebook Profile last week. I like the billboard branding... or should I say, buzzwordishly, the personal branding possibilities ... of the larger-than-life cover photo. I’m enjoying the bigger, brighter compartmentalized sections that Facebook has created for all of us to review and admire about ourselves and our friends. What I’m struggling with is the tidy little bar on the right, the one beginning with “Now” and ending with when you were “Born.”

Don’t get me wrong, I like that easy swoosh of scrolling down years and remembering things that happened through what people shared on Facebook. That’s conveniently nostalgic and interesting. What I’m struggling with is the assumption that Facebook is where we should store and document every aspect of our lives, even before we were on Facebook--even before Facebook was invented. It indicates we should do some sort of exhaustive digital scrapbooking. It seems to presume that Facebook is not only taking over the Internet, but our personal pasts that happened before its invention and relentless inventory.

After exploring Timeline and all of its bells and whistles, I found myself wanting to remember the other ways we measure our lives by time. So I did what a lot of writers do ... I conducted an informal poll with my friends on Facebook:

Doing some writing and have a question for everyone: How do you measure and keep track of time? Perhaps a better way to put this would be: How do you know time is passing ... how do you measure your life by time? Would love to hear everyone's thoughts. Thanks.

One artist friend said he knew time was passing when he saw trees he had planted, and how much they had grown. He has a tiny studio that’s nestled in a meadow off a winding road in Western Maryland. A dedicated mom of two I know said she told time by “the increase of grey in my hair, the height of my children versus the height of the kitchen counter, and by the increasing discrepancy between the weight on my drivers license and my actual weight.”

“Now (telling time) is in the development of Samuel. Before him, I didn't really notice. Am I not still 28?” wondered one friend of mine who is a proud dad. “For about the last 8 months, I've measured time by the size of my belly,” said another friend, who is expecting her first child.

For the dedicated educators I know, the passage of time was marked by pop cultural references their students could no longer relate to and watching students go on to have kids and pursue graduate degrees. “Time passes? I thought I was living the same term over and over again,” one joked.

Books proved to be another source for keeping track of how years were passing by. “Rediscovering my notes from a book I've read some time ago and reading it again and discovering other things in it,” responded a professor friend. “Coffee spoons (literally),” said a poet I know, wryly citing T.S. Eliot and revealing her one-pot-a-day caffeine addiction. “People I have spooned with,” added my artist friend.

No matter how we spend time, measure it, mythologize it and reexamine it through digital documentation, the most unexplainably beautiful, memorable moments are perhaps best experienced when we’re living in the present, and reaching out and holding onto them with both hands. Stopping to notice and acknowledge them and realize they are not permanent.

Time has been transformed, and we have changed; it has advanced and set us in motion; it has unveiled its face, inspiring us with bewilderment and exhilaration. - Khalil Gibran

NEW FEATURE: Starting today, I'm going to create a Spotify playlist for each new blog post. Here's the one for Telling Time.


AMazer said...

Great post! I have always been fascinated with this topic and some of the best quotes and/or moments in life are geared around this subject. When I think of time I always think that most individuals live day to day without really thinking about the bigger picture of time. Instead, for most, time is a nuisance... time may signify a looming deadline or a dreaded appointment. We measure time by our daily tasks and our growing to-dos by watching the clock. In reality, we wish time away.

In the bigger picture of life, when I think of time, I think of someone who has just received heartbreaking news. That their time may be cut short due to an illness. Someone who has been given a time on their life. They are the ones who truly have a emotion connection with time. They hate it at one moment and cherish it the next. They are the ones who live life to the fullest because they value the day, the hour, the second.

Joy said...

Can't wait to spend time with you guys soon! I'm sure we'll create some memorable moments in this amazing, historical and cosmopolitan city. I can't wait to show it off to you! xo

Living abroad and not working full-time means I often lose track of time and the date. It's been a nice change compared to working 6 days a week when I was back in the U.S.