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Time as a resource

Most of our lives are spent wrestling with time. Time as a memory, a resource, an organizing principle, and an abstract concept in which we organize our lives.

The concept of time

In their book Time for Life by John Robinson and Godbey, historicize the concept of time. Before, it was “circular and less-precise”. Measured in the “ebb and flow of tides, the orbits of sun and moon, and the passing of seasons”. Years later it would change to “linear concepts in the Western world”. Time now contains a direction which was influenced by the Church from the concepts of Creation, Resurrection, and Judgment Day.

Goodreads | Time for Life by John P. Robinson and Geoffrey Godbey

Then the industrialization of work. The unprecedented process of speeding up of life, mass production of watches, and talks of speed and efficiency. When profit became the pursuit, the scientific management of time became necessary and its success fundamentally changed the concept of time forever.

In How To Do Nothing, Jenny Odell recalls the origin of the 8-hour work week tracing a graphic by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions. Our 24 hours divided into work, rest, and the other what we will. Not specified by anything. No imperative to be productive. “The most humane way to describe that period is to refuse to define it,” writes Odell. Just what we will. Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.”

TIMETOAST | History of Labor Visual Timeline

Recently, talks of luxury circulated around social media. That luxury is relative. Parsing through this, time is a luxury for anyone who has limited use of it.

Feeling of rush

In his article, Work, leisure, time-pressure and stress, Jiri Zuzanek concludes that the sense of not having enough time stems from systemic issues. 

Photo | Canva

Most pressures faced by people in modern societies are social or structural. They are embedded in the competitive demands of globalised economies, changing workplace environments, value orientations emphasising rapid material gains and conformity with standardised and fast forms of expression prevalent in popular culture. As mentioned in an earlier article (Zuzanek et al. 1998), in today’s society, practising ‘yoga’ is paradoxically a symptom rather than a remedy for stress.

Work, leisure, time-pressure
and stress by Jiri Zuzanek from the book Work and Leisure edited by Jon T. Haworth & AJ Veal

Improvement of socio-economic conditions is beneficial not only to our social life but also to our physical health. That the “determinants of human health” are not necessarily the utilization of medical facilities but on “cultural, social, and economic factors.” 

Until we solve the problems of inflation, slave wages, lack of housing, and our impaired health infrastructure, all activities from here on out will always be encumbered by rush, producing a sense of time that hurries towards, just simply… stability, a stable, comfortable life. 

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