Andrew wrote the following essay for an English class and it was accepted for the literary magazine at his high school. So – from today’s guest blogger Andrew Brown – I’m proud to present 9:45:00 GMT.
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Today’s society uses time as its matrix. Everything we do commences at time x and concludes at time y. Every person who wants to live in our urban environment needs some way to tell time if they wish to function properly in our world, whether by wristwatch, cell phone, or computer. We use time as the basis for everything we do. My day begins at 5:45 every morning, classes begin at 8:00; lunch is at 1:30 p.m., and sports begin at 3:30; I arrive at home anywhere from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., depending on what I do after school. I eat dinner, finish my homework, and go to bed any time from 9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. This schedule has become more than a routine: now it’s more a state of existence.
I first began thinking about time’s role in our world over Spring Break while in rural Tennessee visiting my uncle, aunt, and four cousins at their farm. My uncle works as an artistic blacksmith with his forge just aside the log cabin that they built themselves. My aunt Kerry home-schools their children (my cousins Erin, Joseph, Samuel, and Isaac). This world-within-a-world is pretty far from Washington, DC, to say the least.
As we were catching up over the last few years, this difference of lifestyle arose in our conversation. They had come to DC in the autumn of 2006, and we discussed what they had witnessed on their trip with regard to human interaction. As onlookers in a pretty brisk rush-hour, my Aunt Kerry noted, “People seen so rushed. They have to be somewhere at some time and don’t take much notice to what’s around them until they arrive there.” Later, I asked what time it was. Aunt Kerry said offhandedly that she didn’t know because she doesn’t wear a wristwatch. And then it hit me: here I was, in a completely separate place where time was no object; it merely occurred without need to know exactly how many hours and minutes and seconds had elapsed. I took a moment to remember how that felt, because I knew it would be a while before I felt that again.
As a result of thinking about time, I began thinking about how it fits into all the particular parts of my life. Its role in school is obvious: classes run for fifty minutes, each separated by five minutes. We really do run on a clock. I always knew that but didn’t think of the consequences of how time rules my life. But then I started thinking about my activities outside of school and their relationship to time. Why do I enjoy certain sports, especially rock climbing and figure skating? My first thought was just the “well-duh” response that I climb and skate because I like doing them. However, upon reflecting why I like these sports —why I connect to them— I came to a more revealing answer: when I climb or skate, I feel liberated. They are an escape from the rushed, frenetic world outside their boundaries. When figure skating and rock climbing, I get lost in them and I am no longer there. I find myself in a place where there is no time. Of course, the irony is that at 5:30 my climbing partner and I need to start packing up to leave; after an hour and forty-five minutes the Zamboni drives onto the ice, and everyone must skate off.
Music, both performing and listening, has a similar effect. When I sing, play piano, or listen to music, the matrix of time melts away and suddenly the clock no longer has a purpose. When I would sing Bach’s Johannes Passion or Handel’s Messiah with the National Cathedral Choir, two and a half hours would elapse. But once the pieces began, the word “time” would never pass through my train of thought. It’s not unlike the peculiar experience of becoming enveloped in a riveting book, but the music occupies your soul in its entirety. The sensation of freely traveling over ice or scaling a vertical face also invokes that wonderful exhilaration of leaving everything else behind.
I truly enjoy all these things: rock climbing, figure skating, and music. Simply put, I feel free. I need to feel free within this time-enslaved world, if only for an instant. I need to experience the sensation of merely existing, that fleeting moment of inner peace fixed within a hectic society. I yearn to achieve a timeless solace with my soul and to get lost doing something where the clock runs, but no heed is taken to it.
Speaking of which, it’s getting late and I need to wake up tomorrow morning at 5:45. I’m going to go get some sleep.
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More to come…