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It’s About Time: 'The Present' Is an Updated Time Piece for the 21st Century It’s About Time: 'The Present' Is an Updated Time Piece for the 21st Century
Culture

It’s About Time: 'The Present' Is an Updated Time Piece for the 21st Century

by Scott Thrift

December 14, 2012

Time. It’s a story as old as, well, time. It’s the subject that is so elusive that it is impossible to pinpoint. The very moment we try to define it, it moves. Like that head game in which you think to yourself that it is now, right now, only to think in the very next second it is now, all over again. We've come to recognize a moment in time as a single second and our lives are a construction of these seconds, these moments. If you’ve ever had the overwhelming feeling that you are running out of time, you’re not alone. Most people are unfortunately familiar with the affliction or excuse that they can’t find enough time. If we do, we wind up looking for new ways to kill it. 

For a short while still, it is 2012; the precise moment to take a look back at where modern time has come from and where it might be going next. Taking the briefest possible look at the history of modern time, we notice that it’s not very modern at all. 
 
Available since the 18th century, clocks accurate within an hour, minute, and second, using hands like today were the foundation of the industrial revolution. If you’re reading this in 2012, you’re at the beginning of the information revolution where everyone you know and everything you want to know is a click away. Yet, if you take a glance at a nearby clock, that 18th century piece of tech is ticking away in the same way since the invention of the original instant messenger, the telegraph. Time as we know it, is at the very least, 200 years late for an update.
 
With the increasing frequency at which we transmit and receive messages, coupled with the speed of our computers, we confront the reality that time is dwindling. We find ourselves regretfully asking questions like, "Where did the time go?" and "How is it already December?" We’re left wondering why a year feels like a fraction of the eternity it seemed as a kid. Wasn’t technological progress supposed to save us time?
 
The truth is, the more complicated our lives are, the more difficult it is for any of us to truly live in the moment. How can we live in the moment, if the moment changes every second?
 
The tick-tock of modern time promotes short term thinking like clockwork; relegating the limitlessness of time itself into unnaturally precise units of measure. To its credit, the creation of the modern clock was the world’s first automatic machine and therefore the basis of the computer and so much more. Yet here we are hundreds of years later, trying desperately to keep up with its pace as if it is our sworn duty. Why are we still using an 18th-century technology to measure our 21st-century experience? 
 
Now that our new century is in full swing, the challenges ahead of us demand us to think differently. Patience and long-term thinking are the tools we need to help us navigate the future. What if we were gradually able to understand a moment in time, not as the flashpoint of a second, but more like a particular wave that cannot be separated from the ocean of experience that is our lives? We deserve at least a different option—a way of seeing time that is more dynamic, inspired, and expansive as life itself. 
 
Because of this need, I developed a clock in which the base unit of measurement is not seconds, but seasons. With the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign at the end of 2011, I’ve spent 2012 developing the world’s first dedicated Annual Clock. The annual hand tells the story of the seasons using subtle shifts in color as it sweeps across the spectrum of the entire year. It’s called ‘The Present’ and it’s a meditative time piece for the 21st century. 
 
 
I’ve been living with the prototype for a year now and it has helped introduce me to a more organic sense of time and space. For the first time in my life I know the ‘shape’ and relative ‘speed’ of a year. It’s a simple shift in perspective that I think will inspire people to create, love and live more deeply. It’s an inviting reminder, that the space in our lives when time dissolves, becomes the time we live for the most. 
 
I’d like to think that as we begin to familiarize ourselves with a deeper sensation of time, we can learn how to befriend it, not kill it. We've been hearing for years now that 2012 will be the end of time as we know it, perhaps it’s true. The way we tell the story of time, of our time, is up to no one but us.

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This is part of a series of posts examining the idea time and imagining our collective future. Go here to tell us your wish for the future and we'll bury it in a time capsule.

 

Illustration by Tyler Hoehne

 

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