I was doing some reading the other day, when I read about a group in Scotland who were attending a workshop of sorts, and got to talking about medicine wheels. While I am not aware of this concept being native to the Isles, at least not in the the way it was described where I read, this caused a breeze to blow through my grey forest, bringing down a few interesting leaves of thought. Close in shape as well as function to some medicine wheels (accepting that some, but not all, medicine wheels align themselves to astronomical events) are places like Stonehenge. As with medicine wheels, these places in the Isles seem to have been built up and used for different purposes by succeeding generations.
Yet this is not the only way the peoples of the Isles expressed time. Time was also expressed by them in their descriptions for deities other symbols of weather and landscape. A good example of this is the Holly and Oak, and another is Brigid and the Cailleach. Simpler means of expressing and marking time, for more simple ways of living, these ways of observing and describing time do so for ‘natural units’ of time: day, month (lunar), season, etc.. Perhaps, when I look at the most modern Western expression of the medicine wheel, one that many (but not all – myself included) wear on their wrists, I can also see where our ‘medicine’ has possibly gone wrong. The clock as we know it is based on sundials employed by ancient Greeks and Romans (one of whom, Plautus – a famous Roman comedian – complained about having his day hacked to pieces by sundials!). While the word, ‘clock,’ owes its linguistic origin to the Celts, the precision with which our modern clock neatly and mechanically hacks our days apart is not a concept that was native to the Celts (the Celtic word, clocca, had more to do with the bell ringing than it did with the purpose of the clock, itself).
So the questions I have are, whether or not we have really benefited from our tendency to wear our portable, mechanical or digital, medicine wheels wherever we go? Someone pointed out to me once that they thought it was strange that I never wore a watch, to which I replied, “Why would I do this? It only puts me under more stress.” True enough, a more narrow concept for time has enabled many things in our world – many very good things – but still the question persists, whether or not these things have brought us closer as a human race to happiness, or removed us further from them? I have pondered this question for a while, and am still not certain one way or the other. While on the one hand I am aware of the stress caused by living life by a minute-by-minute sort of schedule, and have rejected both this way of living as well as its most prominent symbol; I am also aware that the computer I use to type this post, as well as the computers it will eventually be viewed with, rely on essentially the same principle. Another question I have is whether or not the presence in our lives of deities like the Cailleach call on us to simplify our lives?
It’s possible, at least in theory, to sell everything and find a place in the world where you can set up a hut and start living a more simple life style. I think these places and opportunities are dwindling fast; but in theory it should still be possible. Is this necessary, though? And would this bring happiness? I’m not sure of either. I can see, however, where dedicating parts of our lives to a more simple observation of time would be beneficial – it has proven to be so for me, at least, as well as for others I have encountered who have done similarly. One of the first things I did was to remove my watch and not put it back on. Oh, I can still tell what time of day it is – for that, I have a smarty-pants phone that I usually have in one of my pockets – but I make it less convenient (and thus less tempting) to constantly gaze at my watch. I used to refer to my watch as my being handcuffed to time … I did away with that manacle, and I have felt better for having done so. Another way to simplify is to dedicate one day out of the week (notice, I specifically do not suggest dedicating an ‘hour’ or ’45 1/2 minutes’), a natural unit of time, to not looking at timepieces of any kind other than the Sun, to know whether or not it is morning, afternoon, or night. No meeting BFF’s at 1130 for coffee for an hour, no checking the time to see when a television show comes on – one day out of the week with absolutely zero precise scheduling. Meeting at the park in the morning or noon, for example, works. But not at a specific hour.
My thought is that our obsession with time in these modern days also leads to some of the problems we face with obesity – we feel encouraged to eat not because we are hungry, but because a watch or schedule has told us that it is time to do so.
I think this is something I will be devoting more energy to contemplating as this blog progresses. I would be interested in knowing from readers whether or not any of this seems to resonate; or whether there are different ways of combating time stress; or even whether or not readers feel less stressed by always being aware of what time it is?