Our Understanding of Time is Poisonous

Some never realize, some never care. We all start off willingly poisoning ourselves. But we don’t have to.

Time transforms between modes in our minds.

We boast of our comprehension of time—our successful grappling with this “continuum” which we champion alongside space. We understand how days cluster up end-to-end in our consciousness and evidently become a “stream.” But, for something so constant and so geometric, we describe it frequently as something recurrent, something like an event which repeats.

“Everyday” is nothing like the term “everyman.”

It’s taking a unit of time, day, and putting it on another unit of time, every, which is ambiguous enough that we accept it as somehow being equivalent to infinity (in the boundaries of a human life). Here’s my point: we wouldn’t consider two objects repetitions of each other. If we have two cups of coffee, they’re distinctly two cups of coffee. Every moment in time, every day, is a distinct moment.

There cannot be an “everyday” occurrence, when the underlying assumption—that days can repeat—is unfounded.

This understanding—taking a step back to realize our interpretation and usage of “time” is flawed—doesn’t seem very impactful. But without it, I believe our previous, society-approving understanding of time is poisonous. We place so much incredible effort in making “every day count”—as if the individual days should be unique in their creation of the vague timeline of, say, a year—but then we throw out all the details when we describe our efforts in any way as “everyday.”

It builds up expectation. Why would any day resemble another? Most, if not all of the factors are far from any individual control. We fight with treacherous existential crises when something fragments our “everyday.” Be it a small change—our favorite coffee shop closed—a rather large change—a break up—or a monumental change—a college graduation—we’re so terrifyingly vulnerable when time isn’t that constant stream we expect it to be. So, we play with it, we learn how to face it, and we become stronger. But what if we refused to poison ourselves in the first place? What if our initial understanding of time was built on the foundation that every moment is just that—a genuine moment?

One could near conspiracy, pointing fingers at the workhorse economy which requires Americans to act like consistent machinery, day in and day out, as a source for this “poison.” But regardless of source or reason, this flawed conception of time, as even remotely reliable or predictable, is dangerous. Until we force ourselves into senile satisfaction with it, or break and realize that our understanding is something of a ruse, we have to work through impossible pains. Tears, scars, death, over the difficulty of facing irregularities in time, which should have never been “regular” from the get-go.

A death of a loved one destroys some. But, a death of anything seems so incredibly ordinary. If there’s anything “normal” about any living being’s existence, it’s that it will end. If you can close your eyes and still tell the difference between two cups of coffee, you should be able to acknowledge loss and bad luck and still be able to happily separate two days of your life.

Our understanding of time should be built that way.

I hope you enjoyed my Sunday afternoon thoughts. I’ve been trying to write and express much more of these intense conversations, even if they don’t relate to technology, but it’s ever more difficult to choose where that expression should lie. In literal conversation? In advice? In writing? In song? In development? In design? At college or abroad? I hope you stay along for the ride, and listen either way.

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