11.11.11

Happy autumnal equinox!

Living in the past: A man greets the spring equinox on top of a pyramid at Teotihuacan, Mexico.

“This morning when you got up, did you feel anything different? As you rushed through getting your kids ready for school, grabbing breakfast and slogging through the morning commute, could you feel the celestial milestone you were passing? Probably not. And that is exactly why the crisis we face as individuals and as a society is so difficult to recognize.

The baseline crisis we must understand and confront is not one of economics, climate change, resource depletion or alternate-reality Republicans. Below them all is a crisis in time. Until we recognize it for what it is, we will be powerless to address the challenges surrounding us, hounding us.

Today is the autumnal equinox, when the hours of sunlight balance the hours of night. For most of human history the equinox — connected as it was to the harvest — was celebrated with elaborate festivals, rites and rituals. The equinox was a compass point. It was a mile marker for the lived year. Life was experienced through sky and season rather than through the construct of the clock. The equinox bound human communities together in a shared time that was both personal and cosmic.

Today hardly anyone notices the equinox. Today we rarely give the sky more than a passing glance. We live by precisely metered clocks and appointment blocks on our electronic calendars, feeling little personal or communal connection to the kind of time the equinox once offered us. Within that simple fact lays a tectonic shift in human life and culture.

Your time — almost entirely divorced from natural cycles — is a new time. Your time, delivered through digital devices that move to nanosecond cadences, has never existed before in human history. As we rush through our overheated days we can barely recognize this new time for what it really is: an invention.

It’s an invention that’s killing us.

We’ve come to accept the millisecond timing for computer-driven stock trades. We assume that “overnight” is an appropriate wait for an order of goods from China. We have been schooled to believe 15 minutes is what to expect for the length of a visit with the doctor. Most importantly, we have come to accept days crowded into attention-starved blocks of appointments, “to-dos” and play dates.

For all we have learned to “produce” with this new time, it is not sustainable. What we have built can’t last in this form. It needs to change and it can change.

Like the balance embodied in the equinox, a balanced life and a balanced culture are both possible and necessary. In an act of cosmic irony tied closely to the celestial imperatives of the equinox, grand ideas coming out of science and cosmology are setting the stage for such a change.”

by Adam Frank for NPR

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