A slender meditation on the ticking clock by memoirist and novelist Hoffman (Appassionata, 2009, etc.), a self-confessed “chronophobiac.”
All people in all cultures have 24 hours in which to live each day. But time is different for different people, a point that the European-born and well-traveled Hoffman well appreciates. For instance, an English fellow might wander into a critically important meeting full of insouciant composure, suggesting that the British “are the lords of time and that they’ll be pressed by no man, or career incentive.” However, the author adds, look at how fast a Londoner walks on the street, scurrying to get to that meeting in order to exude that calm, while an American may stride, slink or hopscotch at a slower pace but then give the appearance of being rushed to the point of distraction—after all, time is money. Back in the days of the Evil Empire, Eastern Europeans had nothing but time, with little to do and few defined responsibilities other than not causing any of the bosses trouble, meaning they could smoke, drink and philosophize all day long. Good for them, since, as Hoffman writes, there are plenty of good medical reasons to relax, take your time, not hurry and get plenty of sleep—all things that the present culture seems to frown on. The author writes lyrically of melatonin and monotony, life spans and lipids, though depressingly of the daily digital bombardment that makes it impossible to escape time, since everything, from the tiniest TV broadcast to the teeniest Twitter, is ubiquitous. Yet, she counsels, “if we try to pack all moments with digital quanta, then we run the danger of laying waste, or killing the time that is given to us.”
A lucid essay with which to while away a couple hours.