“The pace of life feels morally dangerous to me.”–Richard Ford, novelist
“Time is on my side” –The Rolling Stones
As the New Year begins, I keep reflecting on Time. It runs through all of our lives–at work, at home, at play–in the ways we structure and conceive of our society and values. I used to think Mick Jagger could do no wrong. But, for better or worse, these days I think Richard Ford gets it right in describing our lives and current condition when it comes to the Big-T–Time.
I know that all too often we can’t help it (or ourselves) but in our contemporary technofied life, most of us don’t take nearly enough time for our friends and family. Too many Americans even feel guilty for taking time away from their Blackberries, cell phones, text messaging, overtime, frenetic pace and packed schedules. Forget smelling the proverbial roses–we’re so busy sprinting from Point A to Point B we don’t even spot them in the first place.
So the personal and political question is this: How might we craft a different attitude toward time–one that moves us toward a saner, more humane, more caring country?
In a wonderful book–In Praise of Slowness–journalist Carl Honoré explores the Slow Movement. The Slow Food aspect focuses on regional produce, sustainable agriculture, and taking time to enjoy meals with good company. And while it’s something to celebrate (as The Nation did in its first-ever food issue), what truly interests me are other parts of the Slow Movement–the thirty-five-hour work week; educators who advocate for a slower classroom pace and fewer extracurricular commitments; the importance of leisure activities (“the first principle of all action is leisure,” Aristotle argued); Tantric sex; and the Slow City movement that addresses everything from reducing traffic to providing family-run businesses with prime real estate to using local, organic produce for school lunches.
But here at home politically, personally, we seem headed in the opposite direction. A single mother working two jobs still finds herself without health insurance or the resources to rise from poverty–much less spend time with her family and friends. Workers lack paid vacation days or paid sick leave to care for themselves or family members. And the right to organize unions that might fight for commonsense time-friendly reforms is increasingly under attack.