our time is running out: the importance & death of time

As New Year’s passes and we enter into 2012 we find ourselves ducking and weaving to dodge the plethora of resolutions that will, by statistical accounts, mostly fall to the ground by January 20th.

Despite the overwhelming failure of New Year’s resolutions to affect change in our lives we continue to make them year after year. Why?

In our mind there is something special about particular times. We make resolutions on New Year’s because in our minds it is a time of new beginnings, of fresh starts.

Of course New Year’s is not the only such special time. Indeed we find all sorts of special designations of time to mark off moments in life. We esteem the (rather arbitrary) ages of 18 and 21 for example. In Western culture these birthdays mark off a sense of adulthood.

Throughout history particular times have represented important periods for whole communities. In modern Australia public holidays tend to be the closest we thing we have, such as on Australia Day and holidays celebrating/commemorating military events.

These pale in comparison to past societies where festivals were extended periods of celebration or remembrance for whole communities.

I think particularly of the Israelites throughout their history. The Old Testament insists that it was God who commanded the Israelites to mark off certain times to celebrate, remember, worship and act justly. A number of these festivals were reasonably lengthy (Passover, for example). These continued to exist in the time of Jesus, and some even today.

If God indeed commanded such times they must have been important. Indeed these events would certainly have helped bring the community-at-large together. In addition they would also have helped instil a sense of identity, meaning and purpose within the people.

I wonder whether we have lost this in modern Australia. I wonder also what effects this might have in our wider society.

When I have taught courses on youth ministry I have made the suggestion that the lack in our culture of special times of community-formation and initiation into the adult world cause young people to develop their own “rites of passage”, including binge drinking. Such generous alcohol consumption is, contrary to popular belief, not merely an arbitrary experience but a communal activity amongst young people. It is a shared experience and a rite of passage developed in the absence of more meaningful pathways into and participation in the adult world.

A couple of posts ago I talked about the importance of place in our lives, and here I want to assert the importance of time. Deep down we know that setting aside special times is important (as with our senses about New Year’s), but somewhere along the road we lost our way.

Now it seems we can barely find a few minutes a day to sit and do nothing but rest. Worse, such an aspiration is derided in our culture – I am made to feel guilty for doing nothing.

In the midst of a time-starved culture perhaps a week-long community festival would be a fantastic thing.

What are the chances?


Posted on January 5, 2012, in Culture & Art, Current Events and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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