Quelle heure est-il au paradis? Musings on time

Pass time. Spend time. Waste time. Kill time. Lunch time. Me time. On time. Find time. Good times. Tea time. Daylight savings time.

Our reality leads us to believe that everything is quantified in terms of time… even the quarter life crisis that prompted this post. But really, how (!?) does time bend and change? Why does it seem to speed up and slow down as you age, as you travel, whilst in love? How do we perceive time, and in what circumstances do we interact with time differently? What are the relatives? The constants?

These are all questions I’m not sure I’m fully capable of answering, perhaps for fear that my head might explode, but I would like to find a way of expressing how I’ve experienced a change in my concept of time during this past year in Morocco.

untitled (126 of 127)Punctuality, a cultural non-constant, can be viewed on two different scales–mono and polychronic. In a monochronic society, such as the U.S., time is rigid and task-oriented. You’re late if your not 5 minutes early. Having been socialized in this type of society, the adaptation process to Morocco’s polychronic concept of time took, well, time… Here, time is more flexible and agendas are far from strict.

The term “Inshallah,” which means God willing, is not just religious, it is also a deeply engrained  concept of cultural time. And to those of us raised in a monchronic community, even the very hint of being made to wait (or worse, being stood up) for a rendez-vous, cuts to the very core of our values and beliefs.

“See you tonight at that really important thing we have been planning.”

“Inshallah.”

*GRIMACE* “No, but seriously. See you tonight?”

I’ve frequently begun to ask myself why such a beautiful phrase can render me so uncomfortable. Don’t I  constantly talk about living in the present moment and trusting in the infinite and great plan of the Universe…shouldn’t God’s willingness to let me partake in social gatherings make me feel elated and grateful? So yeah, I sure do feel like a big ol’ hypocrite when my muscles tense at the sound of a non-committal “Inshallah.” But then again, it’s my upbringing. I am a result of all my previous experiences and growing up in a place where time is directly related to money, and money directly related to happiness, has apparently been imprinted on my psyche more than I’m proud to admit.

The beauty of this cross-cultural experience for me, however, has been that whilst living here, I have  begun to loosen my suffocating concept of time. And I’ve come to realize that  I deeply admire  how much polychronic societies value interpersonal relationships. Because, what is time really worth if it isn’t passed with those whom we love? If everything is fleeting, then we must ask ourselves what we value most of all. To me, family and friends hold their weight in gold, and everything else is but a means to the end.

So, what time is it in paradise? You decide.

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