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The Expansiveness of Time

May 10th, 2010 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Tomorrow, my experience of time will dramatically change.

Over the past six months, I have been working for an international corporation in what amounted to a digital stockroom.  It was the sort of job that would turn the most hardened capitalist into a Front-Porcher (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  It was the equivalent to pressing a button over and over again–4, 8, 16, 23, 42–except without the threat of blowing up the world.

Eight hours is a long time in that environment.  I might not have killed time, but I certainly tried.  Hard.

My next job is structured very differently.  More time, more flexibility.  More meaningful tasks.  Not subject to the ticking of the clock, but the production of goods (I hope) for a community of people.  In short, work–not a job at all.

That means not just that I’ll have more time in my schedule, but that my whole world will be different, including my experience of time itself.  In the fascinating Theology, Music and Time, Jeremy Begbie deploys John Hull to describe this phenomenon:

“When you have a lot of time, you experience time-inflation…You are no longer fighting against the clock but against the task.  You no longer think of the time it takes.  You only think of what you have to do.  It cannot be done any faster.  Time, against which you previously fought, becomes simply the stream of consciousness within which you act.”

To him who has, more will be given.  The law applies to time as much as it does anything else, provided that we operate within its rules.

But this also rubs against contemporary strategies to avoid distractions by putting ourselves “on the clock” to block out distractions.  While they might be helpful, they fail to correct the more fundamental problem:  our lack of interest in what we’re doing.  When we act out of love, out of delight toward the duty before us, we cease to be subject to the corrective measures of the watch and the timecard.  Time expands and takes a different shape than that of discrete units, a shape that is governed and dictated by love.