Thoughts about Time

Hannah B., Modesto, California

I have a saying about money that never fails to irk my father (usually because I’m talking about HIS money when I use it) but that I believe wholeheartedly: it’s just money. It is something that I can say easily and without stress as a person who has the distinct privilege of having money, but I have a very specific idea of what I want my relationship with money to look like. Money is not something to be coveted in and of itself, its true value is in offering opportunities to learn, explore, grow, improve and bring progress.

As Clare, our brilliant guest editor for the week, reads this, I’m sure she (and our readers) is wondering why I’m writing about money instead of time. I’ll tell you! My mental paradigm regarding time aligns very closely with my convictions about money. But what is even more true about time is that you can’t actually have it. It’s a way of understanding the world and our movement in it, but you can’t physically, tangibly have time.

So I like to be very careful about how I use this limited resource. On Thursday, I came right about against one of the classic temporal idioms: not enough time. As our final supper, my lovely friends Ben and Lindsay (yes, ours!) and I were hardcore nomming on mac n’ cheese in Oakland after having spent the last four days together galavanting around the Central Valley. We had mocked Selena Gomez, drank wine, jumped off cliffs and ate cheese and our time in each other’s presence was coming to a close, as it always does. Time had brought us together and then swiftly reminded us that it should be savored because it inevitably would have to separate us again.

Only a half an hour after dropping them off, I found myself in another time-based quagmire: time moving very slowly. My angel of a friend Daniel and I were driving down to LA (baby!) to celebrate our friend Ryan’s life and we were unoriginally stuck in traffic. In my head, I was pouting. But this literal slow down gave Daniel and I a chance to catch up on all the stitched together bits of our lives. The traffic was taking time, but it was also giving us time together.

She might be a two-headed beast, this time business, but as long as we’re here, we might as well use her richly.

 

Hannah F., Seattle, Washington

Again, the theme for this blog post seems to fit perfectly with what I was watching on TV last night – “The Theory of Everything” – a film about Stephen Hawking, the cosmologist and author of “A Brief History of Time”. It’s not the works of Stephen Hawking that I’ve been reading this last week though, but those of an Egyptian feminist, Mona Eltahawy. In her book “Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution”, I have a found a new favourite to put at the top of my ‘most influential books’ list.

***I must pre-warn you that this blog entry could turn into a bit of a rant!***

I’ve been living in the UAE for almost a year now. In that time, apart from stringent alcohol laws and the need to make sure I dress modestly in some areas of the city, I have found Dubai to be just as liberal and safe a place to live as back home. Before moving there, many friends and family had reservations over me moving to the Middle East as a young, single woman. I had some idea of the stigma attached to Middle Eastern countries, but didn’t feel that any such ‘horror stories’ would apply to me, not in Dubai. Fortunately, this has (at least so far) been true. Upon reading Eltahawy’s book however, I have began to fully realise just why people back home may have been so apprehensive about me moving to live there.

Before reading this book, I believed that wearing a headscarf was something a Muslim woman would do solely as a religious act, to cover her head in the presence of her god. Now however, I can see that many women in some Middle Eastern countries are actually forced to wear religious dress, that can even go as far as to conceal their faces, by family members that feel women should do so in order to preserve their family’s honour. Some women in countries such as Egypt even admit to wearing religious dress as a way to deter men from verbally and physically harassing them on the streets. In one survey, 99.3% of Egyptian women admitted to having faced sexual harassment on the streets of their home cities. Rather than such abuse being properly policed however, Egyptian culture blames the women themselves for enticing the men around them to abuse them in this way, regardless of how overtly modestly these women may be dressed.

In Saudi Arabia, women are legally obliged to cover their heads. On 11th March 2002, a girl’s school caught fire. The Saudi Arabian police force disallowed the girls to be rescued from the blaze simply because they were not wearing headscarves. 15 girls died that day, and over 50 more were injured.

Before reading this book, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) was something I had only briefly heard of just once on British news, in a rare case of it being reported in the UK. FGM was illegalised in Britain in 1985, but the “first prosecution for it took place only in 2014” [Hymens and Headscarves, p. 136]. According to Eltahawy, FGM “threatens an estimated 65,000 girls under the age of 13” [Hymens and Headscarves, p. 136] in the UK today, so why is it that such an unnecessary, horrific procedure that is often performed without anaesthetic, is excruciatingly painful, causes many problems for women during childbirth and when urinating, can cause death and undoubtedly causes immense psychological trauma, is still being practiced not only on some back streets of the UK, but worldwide?

FGM is common in many Middle Eastern and North African countries, and so is domestic violence. Many people there interpret the Qur’an as stating that it is acceptable for men to beat their wives and daughters. It may just be a conclusion I’ve formed of my own accord, but it seems all too convenient that cultures that condone such abuse, also insist that their women wear clothes that cover almost every inch of the flesh on their bodies. It further enraged me to discover that in some countries, girls who have been raped can then be forced to marry their rapists, all for the sake of preserving ‘honour’

I had no idea that life for so many women was just as bad as this in so many countries today. I refuse to believe that any religion in the world truly preaches inequality between genders, brutality, violence or suffering, (whether physical or psychological) and so I believe that it is time such torture ends. It is time that awareness is raised of these issues, and it is time that such unjustifiable violence is treated as the sexist abuse that it is, rather than the cultural or religious traditions that it too often claims to be.

You can judge a society by how well it treats its women. It is time such judgement was passed, and such suffering abolished.

 

Ella, Llangefni, Wales

Time, from asking it, wanting more of it, or wanting it to pass more quickly, it’s never too far from our thoughts.
Recently, I feel as though I’ve gone from having too much time on my hands to nowhere near enough. And I couldn’t be happier about it. The thing with being short on time is that it forces you to get it together, and to make the most of the time you do have. A work colleague of mine told me “if you want something done, ask a busy person” and even though it doesn’t make sense at first, I completely agree. I used to spend my days with very little to do, and therefore I would do as little as possible. Then all of a sudden I lost my job (though I had my current one in the pipeline by this time) and found myself with time that was completely my own. At this point I had 2 choices, wallow, or make the most of being able to do what I wanted. Thankfully I chose the latter, I participated in experiments at the university (well worth doing at your local university if you can, they’re not all scary drug trials!), took photography classes, made more time to exercise, and filled in backup job applications, all while making sure I made time to have fun while I didn’t have to go to work every day. By the time I found out I’d been lucky enough to get the job I’d wanted before all this, I was exhausted in the best way possible. I’d had such a productive fortnight, at a time when it would have been incredibly easy for me to fall into a downward spiral and spend who knows how long doing nothing of any real value. And that’s when I started to realise that although it may be harder to make time to do the things you want when you’re busy, it’s far too easy to fall into the trap of doing nothing when you do have plenty of free time. Tempting though watching Netflix all night every night is, making the time to take those classes you’ve always wanted, or to catch up with an old friend, is always so much more rewarding.
So go and make the most of your time, fill it with things that make you happy whenever you can, those boxsets will still be there on those occasions when you really do need a break from anything even remotely strenuous.

 

Clare, London, UK

9.45 stomach: hungry
brain: let’s wait a few more minutes
9.54 stomach: huuuungry
brain: come on, wait a few more minutes until 10…
9.59 stomach: H.U.N.G.R.Y. Can we eat NOW?
10.00 brain: let’s go.

Yet I still had to remind myself which day it specifically was. This happens pretty much every day – I start work between 8 and 8.30, do emails etc. until 9 and then set down to the serious stuff. But then my stomach decides otherwise. And then it restarts at 11.30 in the hope for lunch, 14.00, and 16.00, 17.00 and 18.00. 18.00 because I mentally set myself the boundary of ending work at 17.00 but I normally finish at 16.45 and being British I decide to use up every minute so I start something new and said something overruns (also very British).

It’s this desire to time things to the minute that I find interesting. I and others around me are late – the German was very unimpressed that the estate agent turned up 15 minutes late for the viewing of our flat because in his culture that was SERIOUSLY late, ergo rude, whereas I am more relaxed with the ‘ish’ which can vary between 5 minutes and three hours. Yet when it comes to my work, mainly for reasons of trying to keep my sanity, every minute still counts so I can eventually stop working and start relaxing. Which might sound ridiculous but total freedom in your work timetable is actually quite hard to deal with.

I remember speaking to a Turkish student once who was shocked upon arrival at Britain’s sense of time. For her, time was days and here she said she found that people believed every second counted. I think this cultural sense of time is fascinating – in rural France where I grew up the countryside the time seems to be divided between pre breakfast (because it’s a farming area), about 9.30-12, lunch, afternoon and evening. Even an errand which should only last 20 minutes can last two hours – you bump into people, have a drink, have a chat – and that’s fine. It’s quite a contrast to the constant texting updates in London for when you’re even two minutes late.

Despite living this dual temporality – between Britain and France – I only really realised it when I saw a piece of art at the Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez in Bordeaux (by far the city’s best gallery). It was weird to be faced with something that was so obvious but at the same time so forgotten. Bref, let’s all just relax a little….

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