Being productive is not the only ‘time’

Three very different concepts of time clash in society today.

by Diana Fu

Earlier this week, I discovered something odd in The New York Times: the merging of two concepts of time in one article. “Seminyak Journal; Bali’s Richness Offered to the World, by Onetime Hippies,” the headline read. The story went on to describe some U.S. hippies who trekked to the Indonesian island in the 1970s and built a million-dollar enterprise by selling “native” crafted jewelry to Neiman Marcus.

One man interviewed boasted of a work force of 600 native Balinese. Another selflessly gave credit to the natives: “They paint, they carve, they make music.” Western capitalists such as Paul Ropp all faced one pernicious problem: the Balinese relaxed pace of life and their preoccupations with elaborate religious ceremonies.

I pictured Ropp sweating in his white trousers, staring at long rows of empty sewing machines, holding off a Neiman Marcus CEO’s call, cursing the Balinese god, his soul strapped to a Rolex watch. “Damn it, we’re not meeting production record. Five thousand more gold watches to go before sunset. Is there a translation for efficiency?”

Forgive me for my hyperactive imagination, readers. I am amused by the intersection of three different concepts of time: the capitalist time, the Balinese time and The New York Times – the first time measured through production, the second through religious ceremonies and the last through the ticking in Times Square. All three times are intangible mantels, imagined constructs and powerful dictators of life. However, it seems to me that the Balinese concept of time might be the healthiest.

Think about how our lives as students are closely aligned with the first concept of time measured by production. Many of us speak of having “wasted” an entire day because we didn’t get any work done. On the surface, this is an innocuous statement. But when this feeling is magnified to reflect entire societies of people in the so-called industrial world, there seems to be something startlingly wrong. Think about all of the advertisements boasting “X” product to be “timeless.” In essence, it is saying that by purchasing this product, you will be able to escape the need to produce (time) for a while.

In fact, I make a bold claim that one of the primary goals of educational institutions such as the University is to teach a certain concept of time that hinges on production so we can be successful, efficient workers in a few years. The average University student works 10 to 15 hours per week, takes a full 15-credit course load, is involved in two extracurricular activities and dreads every Sunday night.

Living in a so-called “first-world nation,” we do not have the luxury to carve out a concept of time that steps outside production. Yet, the very people we might consider backward, inefficient and lazy remain free of such trappings of a productive time. Perhaps I am too idealistic, but I challenge you to carve out a time of your own.

Diana Fu welcomes comments at “>[email protected]