27 Nov Sense and Seasonality
As modern people, we like to think that we have got things firmly under control. We don’t do well, as a rule, with those aspects of life which defy our management – the great realities which resist being tamed. Take the seasons, for example. Traditionally, the ebb and flow of creation’s ‘appointed times’ – seedtime and harvest, summer and winter – ruled our movements, our activities and even our entertainments. These days, our drive to manage everything, coupled with our use of technology, leaves us less aware than any generation before us of the movements of the seasons.
If you don’t believe me, just ask yourself the following questions: when was the last time you cancelled a trip because of an inauspicious wind? Has your conscience ever smitten you for buying strawberries in January? Has a bad wheat harvest ever ruined your holiday plans? I could go on, but trust that the point is made.
Our indifference to the seasons is part of a more general attitude change in regard to time. We see ourselves, we moderns, more or less as ‘Time Lords’: de facto owners and organisers of time. The suggestion that our activities, entertainments or diets should be constrained by the shape of time itself is bizarre to us. No. Time is ours – entirely at our disposal – a raw material for us to shape as we will. Alan Noble expresses this condition well:
Like so much else in the modern world, time becomes an instrument for our manipulation. We choose to give certain hours of our life to labor in exchange for payment, we live for the weekend, and we expend considerable resources on technology that can give us more free time or can help us fill dead time. In viewing time as raw material, we reject the idea that time may have meaning in itself, that it may be more than a measurement of intervals but contains truths that place obligations on us to act in certain ways.*
If you winced at the word ‘obligations’ in that last sentence, you may have just proved the point. Thinking of ourselves as subjects of time, rather than lords of it, doesn’t sit comfortably with us. Although we’d never put it this way, we regard ourselves as the rightful controllers of time – this elusive quality which we didn’t create, can’t stop, often fear and struggle even to understand and define. It is right for us to notice the absurdity here. And it is fitting for us to ask why it is that we bristle so much at the idea that time might have its own meaning – a meaning that makes demands of us. For that is one of the lessons which the seasons surely teach us, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.
*Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age (Page 116).
Photo Credit: @ChrisLawton on Unsplash.