Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Came the night Tolled the time/ From zone to zone the hours pass/ And I remain –Apollinaire in America by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Time zones seem entirely arbitrary; they have always baffled me. Flying back to Seattle from Thailand I would leave at 6.30am, travel for about twenty hours and arrive at 9.30am the same day. I then have the chance to live the same day over again. It’s a great way to work around deadlines but I can’t help but wonder if I’m ageing myself in the process. On Sunday I boarded a plane from New York at 8.30pm and fourteen hours later arrived in Dehli “twenty-four hours later” at 8.30pm on Monday. What’s the deal?

A little time zone history courtesy of Wikipedia: in 1675, the Royal Observatory in England established Greenwich Mean Time, which was meant to help mariners at sea determine their longitude. Greenwich is at 0 degrees and the twenty-four official time zones correspond with lines of longitude. For every 15 degrees west of 0 one subtracts an hour and for every 15 degrees east one adds an hour to determine “local time.” But these days, due to geopolitical considerations, it’s rarely that simple.

Apparently there is a smattering of reason to this time zone business. Even so, when massive countries like China live by one time zone alone, India adds a half hour, some countries observe Daylight Savings while others don’t, and I can live the same day twice, I can’t help but question time. It seems irrelevant, inconstant, expanding and contracting, days stretch for weeks and weeks pass in an instant. Yet people tie themselves down with this intangible concept of time, racing the clock, scheduling days down to the minute, and squandering it in all the wrong ways and places.

I’m using this time in India to slow myself down and appreciate every moment of my days. Outside of my work and time spent with friends I practice yoga, meditate, and exercise. I find myself pausing frequently just to enjoy a sound, smell, or sight that I have come across, drinking it in entirely before continuing on my way. Reaching back to the techniques I learned at the meditation retreat in Thailand, I try to perform all my actions with awareness, attempting to avoid those moments when you complete a task and yet can’t seem to remember the details of performing it. As I do all of this, I constantly remind myself of my long time favourite quote, “The moment is the sole reality,” and savour every moment I have here.

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