Organic time

I recently sent my friend Nick Routledge an e-mail where I talked about my new obsession with time and the difference between Kronos – clock time and Kairos – the right time.
In his reply he sent me his account of building a sundial, which I thought gave another take on Kronos. So I asked him if it was OK to reproduce it here, which in his inimitable way he kindly agreed. Here it is:
“This past summer I was asked to build a sundial at the annual didgeridu gathering I go to, way out in the woods. The experience was a great example of learning things by doing. First, I noticed that the sun moves around the sundial (in the n. hemisphere?) clockwise. Which suggests why clocks go clockwise and not anticlockwise, does it not? And as the sundial took on a presence at the gathering, so my understanding of the nature of time evolved. I found myself designing the sundial by marking the point at which we turned the top of each hour (gotta have some connection with the traditional otherwise too weird for people), though I used symbolic geometrical symbolism to mark the hours – rather than labelling them as 1, 2, 3 etc. Toward the end of the design day (Friday) I found myself becoming less invested in placing the marker stone exactly where the pointer landed on the hour. In other words, I began to loosen our collective perception of time. I began to see how abstract are our notions of it. Not just see, the way one does when one reads books about it, but actually _see_, living there on the ground and in the gathering. An absolutely fascinating initiation. The sundial becoming organic and time following.
We painted rocks with the names of the workshops on them, to be placed on the ground in the sundial. When I asked others to place the rocks, almost no one placed them where they were ‘meant’ to go. Workshop slated for 2.00 p.m. : rock placed at 2.10, etc. Our organically morphing sundial took on a whole new level of organicity – never mind the fact that the alignment of the planets, hence calendar, had shifted overnight with the passage of the seasons. Really tweaked with my fundamental understanding of how we perceive time. A feeling of great relief. I’ve read extensively around the topic, but the experience of the sundial was very, very different. The way native experience rather than ‘pondering it’ always is.”
Thanks Nick.

One thought on “Organic time”

  1. a perfect example of why i love nick.
    somewhere on vhs (whats that?) i have a copy of the public television (u.s.) series nova about time. i saw it when i was much younger and the neural paths it opened up are alive and well. how we each deal with our own rhythms, and then, amazingly, attempt to share, has always fascinated me.
    (i think this is the show i have on tape somewhere…

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