In Michael Foley’s Life lessons from Bergson he says this about Bergson’s concepts of time –
Bergson distinguished two versions of time – time measured, which he defined as clock time, and the experienced, which he defined as duration. Clock time, spatialised and uniformly calibrated, is obviously necessary, but only duration is authentic.
When I was reading Deleuze’s work on cinema I came across Bergson’s concept of duration for the first time. That was my entry point. Realising that the way cinema artificially creates movement by showing you still images in rapid succession was the first time I had encountered the idea that clock time is actually artificial. We invented it. It wasn’t sitting there waiting to be discovered.
We experience time as a flow, not as a rapid succession of images or events.
For most of my working life a large part of the day was divided into blocks of minutes. A standard clinic of follow up appointments would be set out in 20 minute periods. A new appointment allocated 90 minutes. In General Practice the time slots were all much shorter than that. Our Practice was created around standard 10 minute appointments. Other groups used a standard of 5 minutes.
I didn’t wear a watch, and I didn’t have a clock on the wall, but I rarely ran late.
Same thing with giving talks or presentations, or teaching. Whatever time allocation I was given, most times (not always!) I said what I’d come to say in exactly that period of time.
Somewhere in me something kept me to time, but not by measuring minutes. I think that mainly arose through habit and experience. I became able to work according to duration.
Here’s more from the Life lessons of Bergson –
We should learn not to manage time but to let time manage us….the paradox is that the only escape from time is in submission to time. When we are flowing along with a process, awareness of time disappears.
We all know that one don’t we? When we go to a great movie we are surprised that two hours has passed already. When we are absorbed in a great book time disappears. When we are fully immersed in sharing a meal or being with someone we love, time disappears.
The “slow movement” is really based on this concept. In fact, the slow movement is, I think, not about being slow at all. It’s about immersing yourself fully in whatever you are doing. Sinking into, absorbing yourself in, fully enjoying and experiencing the present. The best book I know about the slow movement is Carl Honore’s “In Praise of Slow”. Why not buy a copy, and read it…..slowly?
I love Michael Foley’s suggested exercise of sitting on a sofa a dusk –
The gradual fading of the light is a perfect example of process, ‘succession without distinction’, impossible to catch in action but impossible to miss in effect. And the effect, especially if accompanied by a glass of wine, can be mysterious, enchanted, a spell that encourages reconciliation with process and time.