“I wonder what came first: this brutal innovation, the nonsun clock, or the Puritan adage about idle hands. Either way, there is a barbed wire tether between time and virtue, by which I mean, probably obviously, the proper usage of time in this regime, i.e., not fucking off, is considered virtuous.”
-Ross Gay, “Out of Time”
Following Ross Gay and Jack Halberstam, and my own obsessive productivity, time management, and determination to fuck off, I’ve been thinking about all the different ways my friends and I inhabit time. Halberstam’s In A Queer Time and Place (following another scholar: this is all a conversation, all the way down) says, yes, capitalism and other systems of power tell us to inhabit time in certain ways, and the coercion is powerful and directly dangerous, but there are also always twists and gaps and changes in people’s real practices. We don’t live time just the way we’re told. Gay’s essay starts with something similar: a celebration of the “be-right-back Post-It Note” in a coffee shop, ready to hand, which shows the barista is both on the clock and ready to slip off when life goes that way.
I wonder: how do you live time? What different ways? Where do you buy into that “barbed wire tether between time and virtue,” which makes the clock we got on for survival into the clock I ask for self worth? Where do you fuck off?
When I was a kid backpacking with my family, I usually wanted to bring a watch. I ‘had’ to know what time it was. My parents said they didn’t want to bring one, that part of the fun was how clicking seconds washed away in the floods of light and shadow. I was a stubborn kid. I brought a watch, trying to learn the “time” I felt I had to learn, but looking back the watch couldn’t do what it was supposed to. Sometimes I obsessed over what time, how long, how long left. Sometimes the clouds moved like a family of giant whales, swimming slowly through sunset colors, and I watched, chilled by the wind, ready (but not yet) for the warmth of my sleeping bag. And that’s not something that only happens way up in the mountains.