Do you wear a watch? If so, why? If not, why not?
I’ve worn one for many years. But sometimes I ask myself why I wear one. After all, my cellphone and computer tell me what time it is. So do the clocks in my kitchen (the clock on the wall, on the microwave, and on the coffee maker.) I also have clocks in my bedroom, the living room, and in the car. Why do I need a watch?
Years ago when I was a college student and didn’t wear a watch (because we nuns were not allowed to have watches back then), I heard a talk by a noted anthropologist. She said certain aborigines pitied people who wore watches. They noted that these people would look down at their watches regularly and frequently. Sometimes a glance would send the wearer into a tizzy. The aborigines thought watches were some kind of a cruel god who demanded frequent homage (the reverential glancing down or the bowing down of the head) and the performance of certain tasks (whatever the person ran off to do).
I have a priest friend who “gave up” wearing a watch years ago. He never seems to be late for anything either. When he’s out and about, he often asks friends and even complete strangers what time it is. He says his question makes other people feel helpful and needed. He thinks he’s “building community” by not wearing a watch.
Before watches were ever invented, we humans developed a variety of ways for keeping time: water clocks, candle clocks, the hour glass. The sun dial was pretty popular once, but it was of no use on a cloudy day or at night. The accuracy of sun dials was also hindered by the changing seasons.
The first pendulum clock was invented in 1656. It was the most accurate timekeeper until the 1930’s when quartz oscillators came into being. The atomic clock, the most accurate of all timekeepers, was invented after World War II. When were pocket watches first made? In the 17th Century. This means we humans have had the capability of
carrying time with us for roughly 400 years.
Are we slaves to time? Have we become too used to doing things on hours and half-hours? When someone asks me what time I’m picking them up, for example, I seldom say 1:00 or 7:30. I often say something like 1:03 or 7:32. It makes them smile (or it drives them crazy!) When I’m on retreat, I often take off my watch and ignore all clocks. I find it very contemplative to be free of clocks.
In all this talk about time, it’s important to remember that time is a precious gift. And we have only a certain amount of time on earth. Do we live as if we had all the time in the world? Do we ever “waste time” or “kill time”? Furthermore, if our attention is given only to our clocks (and calendars), do we miss the more subtle and beautiful signs of the passage of time—like the sunrise and sunset, the modifications in the night sky, the ripening of berries, the growth of a child?
In all of this we must remember that the origin of all time rests in God. And God’s time is not always our time. As the psalmist says, ” A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night” (Ps. 90:4). I suggest this little practice for the next few days: every time we check our watch or a clock, we can pray, “Thank you for the gift of time, God. Help me to use it well.”
The song I chose for today is an old one entitled “In His Time” originally sung Maranatha Singers. This version is accompanied by the lyrics and pictures of flowers, berries, butterflies, moths, and (fair warning) one spider at the end.
Do you wear a watch or not? Why?
What is your attitude toward time? When is it gift for you? Is it ever a burden? What makes the difference?
Do you have any thoughts on time you’d like to take the time to share with us?
PS: Speaking of time, I am celebrating my Golden Jubilee as a Sister on July 12th and July 18th. Since I’ll be celebrating so much, I’m taking a week off from writing this blog. Therefore, I will not be posting a new reflection for Monday July 13th. If you want to read one of my reflections on that day, I suggest you read something from the archives. I’ll be back again with a new post on Monday, July 20th. See you then!