THE RAPIDITY OF TIME

P E N S É E S

"There would have to be 72 hours in a day in order for us to accomplish everything that is expected of us", sociologist Hartmut Rosa believes. The fact that there are only 24 hours, results in our living in a state of temporal insolvency. We are never be able to repay the time which we incur as a debt because of the things we have not done. The consequence is that at the end of the day, people always go to bed as guilty subjects”, he continues. So much more has been happening in the hours and minutes of the day ever since the world has started speeding up, and ever since we have been living in two dimensions simultaneously: the ‘real’ world and the virtual world. While waiting in line at the supermarket checkout, we write WhatsApp messages and klick through various apps in order to ‘work of’ the little red notification dots. The feeling of not having enough time is omnipresent – and paradoxical: Because, in fact, thanks to technological and scientific progress, we have more time than ever before. Things which used to require traveling long distances and investing many hours can now be taken care of online within a few minutes.

A long list of events does not add up to an exciting narrative.

BYUNG-CHUL HAN

“From the age of marching to the age of buzzing” is what philosopher Byung-Chul Han calls this condition. Because we are speeding, we have the feeling that time is passing more quickly. This perceived shortening of time is frequently considered as threatening – that is probably the reason why ‘retrotopists’ say, “Everything was better in the old days.” In order to escape the feeling of time passing too quickly, we seek refuge in doing and making things, in ‘vita activa’. We fill our time with events, but that does not seem to change our impression that time goes by too fast. Days crammed with one event chasing the next feel strangely unsatisfying. 
Byung-Chul Han sums it up succinctly: “A long list of events does not add up to an exciting narrative.”In his opinion, people’s perception of time passing so quickly is due to the fact that there is no ‘permanent’ or ‘lasting’ present anymore; instead, there is a succession of events that are over soon or that are not even brought to a close: “The impression that time is passing at a significantly faster pace than it used to arises from the circumstance that people are not able to ‘linger’ anymore, that the experience of duration has become so rare. People constantly start over, zapping through ‘life options’, precisely because they are not capable of completing one option anymore.” Or, to quote George Orwell: “Time does not pass more quickly than it used to, but we are running past it more hurriedly.” Even a hundred years ago, there were sixty minutes in an hour.

We are never be able to repay the time which we incur as a debt because of the things we have not done.

HARTMUT ROSA

That is likely the reason why we find it so difficult to make decisions, because once you opt for a way to spend your time, you say no to all the other things that would have been possible in the same period of time. And saying no to events is something that many people find difficult, because it is associated with fear – the fear of missing out. And yet, might there not also be an element of joy in such a deliberate act of renunciation? After all, like Hartmut Rosa says, we are not going to succeed in squeezing everything into 24 hours anyway.


Recommended reading:

- Hartmut Rosa: Acceleration
- Byung-Chul Han: The Scent of Time: A Philosophical Essay on the Art of Lingering