Monday, May 7, 2012

What if Time Disappeared?

What if one morning you woke up purely in response to your circadian rhythm? Summoned to morning by the light streaming in through the curtains. No squawking alarm clock. Must have forgotten to set it. You head downstairs to prepare breakfast. No green glow on the stove to indicate how much time you have until you need to bust out the door to work. Huh, maybe the power went out? You shower, dress, and toss granola bars and bruise-less apples in brown bags for your pre-teen kids. No watch to check at the flick of your wrist. Where did you put it? Even your iPhone appears out of batteries and unresponsive.

“Kids? You awake yet?” You call up the stairs.
As you tromp through the house, restless to know whether you’re aimed to make it to work on schedule it suddenly feels as though an umbrella has opened up inside your chest. Why is it so impossible to locate one working clock?

In fact, there isn’t a single way to read time anywhere in sight. The wall clocks stare at you sans their hands. Those kids playing tricks. The cable box, where the numbers usually light up the color of a sunset, remains black and useless. No numbers at all.
It’s as if time no longer exists, as though the night swallowed it whole.

The entire morning has become Alfred Hitchcock meets Ecclesiastes (the whole chasing after the wind bit).
What is going on? Who stole time? Please don’t let this be a sign of early onset Alzheimer’s.

No, that can’t be it.
You rush to your desk to check your calendar so scrawled over with family events it looks like a train schedule, grocery list, and roadmap smashed together. Funny, all the activities are listed, but the dates are gone. Vanished—missing even the month.

Forget this. You throw up your hands, yell to rouse the kids one more time, then log online. Surely your computer won’t fail you now.
Ah, the monitor blips and the computer hums to life. Alas, some answers. Time sweet time.

Guess again. All appears as normal, but the absence of any reference to the time.
Are you being punished? You squint and tap hard on the keyboard, willing one, just one substantiation of time to materialize. Had you fooled yourself into thinking you could capture time like some hovering butterfly? Netting it. Controlling it. Planning so much, with such intention, expectation, and precision that time would bend to you like a flower opening to the sun’s rays?

Is this your fault? Did you erase time?
These thoughts were inspired the other day when I realized the insane number of methods that exist for keeping track of time. I thought about the verse instructing us to be stewards of our time. I thought about Kansas and their song “Dust in the Wind”. I also thought about The Twilight Zone. My thoughts have a tendency to do that—to keep moving from one to the next—connecting, always connecting.
Then I began to envision the above scenario playing out in my mind. I asked myself how my world would change if time simply disappeared. (Yes, these are the wacky things that keep me up at night.)
I landed on this:
It’s not seconds and minutes that define who we are, they’re merely the shell, but the moments we create inside those seconds and minutes that embody us most.
Here’s another quote that speaks well to this imaginary scenario:
“Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves how to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.” ~ Anna Quindlen, A Short Guide to a Happy Life
How would your world change if time simply disappeared? Initial thoughts…

*photo by stock.XCHNG


  1. My world would change because I'd be in Heaven. Literally. I'm really looking forward to that! Loved your scenario. Sounds like the beginning of a full blown plot!

  2. I think I would feel like Alice in Wonderland without a clock- everything would be strange! Not sure I would know what to do.

  3. I think you have a great basis for a story:)) I feel like time has stopped for me--I wake to the sun and go about my day doing whatever until my husband comes home.

  4. I think I'd be lost. I never realized how dependent I am on time until I think what it would be to live without it. Very interesting post, Wendy.

  5. Absolutely love this: It’s not seconds and minutes that define who we are, they’re merely the shell, but the moments we create inside those seconds and minutes that embody us most.

    I was meaning to call you ALL weekend, but TIME (ha!) got away from me. Talk soon, friend!

  6. I literally cannot even envision what that would be like. I'm so focused on time and fitting everything in to the time I have all the time, that I can't imagine life differently. Sounds nice, though, if it meant less stress! :P

  7. Sometimes I try to think about how God exists outside time...and then my brain hurts. Hehehe...I also loved Jess's response about being in heaven...literally. :)

    I sooo operate based on world would definitely be thrown off balance!

  8. I had a college professor who talked on this once. Will there be time in heaven, and was there time before God created the universe? His answer was yes, because what is time? Time is a sequence of events. We mark it with seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, but time in and of itself has always existed.

    If I no longer had to mark it into divisions like minutes and hours? I'd probably go nuts. I love punctuality, and how would I know if I was being punctual? Of course, how would anyone else know if I wasn't? :D

  9. I think it was Emerson or Thoreau who said to "Live...above time." I remember ditching my watch in college, trying to live this way. Didn't work! Even w/out a watch, I'd check the clocks in classrooms, or operate via my alarm clock in our room. I still like going sans watch, but checking car clocks or microwave clocks or cell phone clocks is still necessary to get my kids places they need to go!

    I think, as long as we're alive on earth, we'll have an "internal clock." Only way to bypass that is to go into a deep depression or have Alzheimer's or something. SO I guess we have to embrace time. I'm totally looking forward to living above time w/God someday, though!

    Cool post! I'm a big Twilight Zone fan myself, but some of those episodes really freak me out!

  10. This sounds like an incredible premise for a story, first of all. Secondly, I remember what it was like during those summers in high school when I had nothing to worry about, and the days were at my mercy, it seemed. I miss what that felt like, and now that I'm newly graduated from college this really makes me think about how I can reevaluate my life so that these moments are bigger. The LAST thing I want to do is end up living like...well, my mother. I know, I know. Shun me. But I want a life that's brilliant in God's eyes. I want that connection with Him throughout everything.

  11. I went on a retreat in highschool and all clocks were removed for the weekend. The experience sticks with you, but I found it kind of funny that you still have an internal clock that lets you know what you need. Having children is another kind of clock - they usually remind you when you lose track of time.

  12. I love this idea. That's sort of how I feel when I go camping.

  13. While I wouldn't want to give up marking time, I would like to be able to leave free of the tyranny of time. I liked what Lauren said about summers as a child when we could just be. To have the freedom to live like that, even for a short time, and recapture the freedom I used to feel would be great.

  14. I can't tell you how many times I look at a clock in a day. I think I'd be utterly lost at first and then, perhaps, I'd be free.

  15. First impression: I would LOVE it. Time is a stress factor for me.

    Loving that Anna Quindlen quote too.

  16. Whoa, this is powerful stuff. Just in the last half-hour, I've probably checked my computer clock 5 times. :/

  17. Okay, Wendy, I want to see a novel based on that!

  18. Jessica, Nothing planned as far as a novel goes, just brain play for now. And heaven...ah...heaven.

    TC, Sometimes I feel like Alice even with time. People say and do such odd things. I'm surprised I still get surprised.

    Terri, That sounds rejuvenating. Restoration.

    Heidi, I'm always blown away by how much our bodies tell us. And nature, can't forget that. That circadian rhythm deal really is a trip.

    Katie, Glad we got that talk in today. Also glad I bought the shoes. Such a thrill watching you go through this, Katie!

    Lindsay, I can't imagine that it wouldn't be less stress. For me I think it would be letting go. Always more ways to let go...

    Melissa, I love how somewhere in the Bible (I do believe) it says His time is not our time (or is it His ways are not our ways or both). Anyhoo, I get the brain hurt this inspires. But I love it. I love that He so above us.

    Erica, I love to be punctual as well. I think we've learned to rely on it in society. Could be kind of crazy if time disappeared for a day--to see the fallout.

  19. Heather, There was one episode where a sister didn't have a mouth. It freaked my sister and I out for years! Yeah, it would be quite a wild ride to go without, and certainly scattered living, but a fascinating experiment to say the least.

    Lauren, Congrats on graduating! And bigger moments, I think that's what it's all about. Making the moments bigger and not so swallowed up in time itself. Hopefully making sense.

    Gabrielle, Yep, kids and body, they're great prompts for what we need. Good point.

    Johanna, Nailed my feeling exactly when I camp. Probably why the stars are so majestic. They mean more outside the framework of time. At least to me they do.

    Keli, Ah, free of the tyranny. I think the marking of time morphs into tyranny for far too many of us. Wonder if delineating the two, solely seeing the keeping of time as something necessary, but separate from the rule of it...hmm...

    Melanie. Lost then free. Sounds familiar (story of my life.)

    Jennifer, Quindlen quote is a keeper!

    Sarah, I think it could make a fascinating experiment, writing down how often we check it and keep track of time throughout the day.

    Karen, Nothing brewing, just an intriguing thought bouncing around in there that wanted to come out & play with you guys.

    Glad so many played.
    As always I appreciate your voices here. They strengthen my voice when it comes to sitting to write!
    ~ Wendy

  20. I used to live my life by the clock. Up by 5:30, out the door between 6:10-6:20. @work at 7:15. Begin work at 7:30. Break at 9:15, Lunch at 11:15, Break at 2:15, leave work at 4:00, arrive home @5:00. Fix supper, do what needed to be done, get son in bed @8:30, go to bed at 9:00. Husband came in from work @ 1:00ish. Try to get back to sleep before the alarm rang. It was my desire to not live by the clock. But I have found out I can't. Meetings have to start at a certain time. I have to set the timer so I can keep on the schedule for laundry. IT'S SOMETHING WE HAVE TO LEARN TO LIVE WITH AND MANAGE.

  21. Wow, this is something to think about! I thought about all the ways I measure time around here - it just doesn't stop. I think I need to plan a time-less day. Might be interesting to see how it goes.

    Happy Monday,
    Karen :)

  22. I very much resonate with this. So often I feel bound by the clock. I get ANXIOUS over it, over the time, always checking what time it is, how much time I"m spending on such-and-such, how much time until this or that happens. I recently blogged about it on my site, the idea of making a to-do-list sans the clock., and

    I think we get more attached to time than we realize.

  23. It never occurred to me how many ways we keep track of time until I read through your list. We are so driven by it. No wonder we have our time-stamped brains have trouble grasping the timelessness of eternity. Great food for thought, Wendy!


Taking Time

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