When we take a look at today’s fluid and changeable world, where advances in technology have changed our idea of space, the meaning of distance and even of time, a reflection about this system arises – Slowness or Velocity?
Velocity helps us to integrate into society if we consider that life is time and velocity consists of reducing space/time.
Velocity is the form of ecstasy that has been brought to men by the revolution in technology, and clocks are the way of measuring it. This translates into a world where we are addicted to speed and thus to forgetfulness.
As Milan Kundera said (Slowness, 1995):
´There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting. A man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him. Automatically, he slows down. Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time. In existential mathematics that experience takes the form of two basic equations: The degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting.’
As mentioned before, life is time and time is innovation, creation, art, etc. Time is about carrying something out. ‘Looking at the time’ relates to the time I have left, to the time I have to do one thing or the other. According to Heidegger, this is what is known as ‘time-for’ (Zeit, um zu…), and where that used expression comes from – how fast time goes by when we are busy and how slowly it goes when we are not doing anything!
The Diaries of Franz Kafka (1922):
‘Breakdown, impossibility to sleep, impossibility to be awake, impossibility to endure life or, more exactly, life´s sequentiality. The clocks are not in unison, the inner one rushes in a devilish or demonic or in any case inhuman manner, the outer one runs, haltingly, along its usual course. What else can happen but that the two different worlds part, and they part, or at least tear at each other in a frightful manner.’
The distress caused by discrepancy between the course taken by one’s own life and the regular, indifferent course taken by the rest of society; the disparity between public and private time; the relationship between the modern man and chronometric time, the time of clocks; makes human life a distressful experience. Everyone has at some point in their lives felt the separation between the regular rhythm of public time and the rhythms of private time. This ambiguous relationship between the modern man and chronometric time affects all aspects of our lives.
Everything seems to point towards the need for a new way to differentiate between public and private time. A new understanding of reality awaits us, an awareness that life, like existential mathematics, should not be set by any rigorous systems; rather, the rhythm of life should be determined by actions.
Clocks are possibly the cruellest mechanism ever made by man. They are monotonous and boring time machines defined by a homogenous and abstract rhythm that depersonalizes society and marks out our death right from the very beginning.
Time has become the biggest torture of the 21st century.
Therefore, we can conclude that the main intellectual task of our time is overcoming the anaesthesia inherited by technology.
Attempting to overcome forgetfulness is not a frivolity at all. In fact, it is the complete opposite; it is about accepting the concept of our time, about accepting our destiny.
Let’s look at those people who are running busily in the street. They do not look to the right or left; they have looks of worry, their eyes towards the pavement like dogs. They run without looking in front of them, mechanically walking a route already known by heart. And this is the case in all big cities of the world. The universal modern man is the rushed man who does not have time, who is the prisoner of necessity, who does not understand that some things can be useless, who fundamentally does not understand that something useful can be a useless and oppressive burden.
Often, the effort put into activities that seem completely gratuitous and which are aimed at entertaining or resolving a difficult problem is essential in a field that nobody had predicted, with long-term consequences. This applies not only to poetry and art but also to science and technology.
The most useful things are the useless ones. However, nowadays ‘society struggles with experiencing the useless’. In saying this, we understand that the ‘useful’ is that which can be used practically and can be applied technically in order to produce and make business. For the modern man, it is becoming more difficult to feel interested in anything that does not have an immediate and practical use.
Those who are not capable of understanding the useless become slaves or robots; they become human beings that suffer and cannot laugh or feel joy.
As Alan Watts writes in The Wisdom of Insecurity:
A particularly significant example of brain against body, or measures against matter, is urban man’s total slavery to clocks. A clock is a convenient device for arranging to meet a friend, or for helping people to do things together, although things of this kind happened long before they were invented. Clocks should not be smashed; they should simply be kept in their place. And they are very much out of their place when we try to adapt our biological rhythms of eating, sleeping, evacuation, working, and relaxing to their uniform circular rotation. Our slavery to these mechanical drill masters has gone so far and our whole culture is so involved with it that reform is a forlorn hope; without them civilization would collapse entirely.
Undoubtedly, passion and curiosity are key to transforming the useless into an incredibly useful instrument to overcome our forgetfulness during this decline we are experiencing within our collective consciousness.
The clock of our time is an instrument of mechanical, noble and clear form, which can be bound or suppressed by no ties; it is a customised machine, whose pinions, wheels and springs are a visible extension of our organism; it is a spiritual heart that does not mark out the time, but marks out life itself with its precious beat.
‘Time is not that which is measured by clocks’