Porkpie Hat—On the Nature of Time

Time is most definitely not consistently equivalent.  Time is relative, mercurial, capricious.  It is linked to and calibrated by our state of mind and our visceral awareness of the world, where we are currently placed on the psychological spectrum between trauma and ecstasy.  A split second poised at the top of a roller coaster, for example, does not have the same chronological value as a split second spent idly noticing a butterfly perching upon a petal.  Although they may objectively be measured in the same number of seconds and minutes, an hour spent in an ER waiting room anxiously awaiting news of a loved one is not remotely similar to an hour spent fly-fishing on a quiet river.  Some hours and days are a stroll through the pleasure dome, whilst others are a haunted house, with all the lights turned out and bottomless holes in the floorboards.

Like many of us, I believe, I have been thinking about the nature of time quite a bit during this year of isolation and plague.  Time, for once, is a resource that seems in ample abundance and, like any other precious and non-renewable resource, I am hoping to start making worthier, more conscious use of it.  But, again like many of us, I have been frittering it away, squandering it recklessly and mindlessly.  Napping and bingeing, dreaming and drooling; all the usual things.  This doesn’t make me feel too anxious, because I’ve always believed that skylarking and wasting time are essential aspects of my personality, and I’ve never felt much burdened by any sense of protestant work ethic.

Still, I feel as though this current thickening and gelling of time, glowing like a vein of gold inside the dark mineshaft of the pandemic, is a real opportunity, a chance to deepen and enrich the way I think about the passing of days.  Attempting to thoughtlessly kill time can be a tricky and dangerous business.  Sometimes you simply can’t kill it.  It won’t die.  Like a vampire, it rises from the coffin, looking to do you harm.  Like a ghost, it is patient, and can hang about for quite awhile.  So, rather than try to kill it, I think I want to embrace it a little more open-heartedly.

One of the ways I am trying to do this is by designating two days per week as “technology-free zones”.  As with most things in life, I can’t get by without a little bit of cheating, so I do allow myself the use of my turntable and kitchen utensils.  Still, no Netflix, no Tik Tok, no Google Play, Twitter, or Crave.  Although I am separated from my loved ones for a while, I have been keeping pretty good company during these times.  This Saturday, for instance, I spent the day with James Joyce, Puccini, Miles Davis, Kate Bush, and Johnnie Walker.  I lined the edge of the bathtub with whatever half-melted candles I could find, and read Joyce’s strange, wonderful, poetic Ulysses until the water grew cold.  Then, I listened to opera and jazz as I prepared moussaka.  After dinner, I went for a long walk along the banks of the river, marveling at the austere, haunting beauty of the dark flowing water and the mostly-still-bare branches of the April trees.  I woke up this morning, feeling renewed, and ready to face whatever sorts of time the next few days bring my way.