Resisting the Commodification of Time

(We’ve begun our yearly solidarity fundraiser! See below the essay for the link. And thanks!)

What if our relationship to Time became one of mutual honor and respect?

From Karina Black Heart

I’m reclaiming my time.

–Maxine Waters

What if Time is a sentient being? What if, instead of seeing Time as a tyrant, task-master or one who imposes severe limitation, we understood that our judgement of Time derives from a cultural construct–one tightly interwoven with so many others which, by accident or design, keeps us distracted, unfocused, rushed and wanting? What if, instead of perceiving Time as scarce and restricting commodity, we– like the Fool–strode past the edge of that agreed-upon reality and stepped beyond it into Time’s limitless spaciousness?

What if our relationship to Time became one of mutual honor and respect?

What if this moment, and the next, and the one after that, stretched before and behind us with infinite patience and presence? What if we have the power (we do) to change our relationship with Time so it feels deeply expansive and rich with meaning?

What if, no matter our circumstances, we are able to partner with Time to create and attend to moments of creativity, kindness, passion, health, connection, liberation?

What if Time — like everything we are in relationship with — responds and shapes itself according to how we treat it? What if we can change Time –bending, slowing, quickening, stretching — by changing the way we relate to it? What if by paying attention and homage to Time right now, we shape how Time shows up for us in the future?

If we examine our past relationship with Time, we might see that our actions have made us ill, have twisted the weft and weave of how we experience our daily round. As in any relationship that matters to us, making one small change has the potential to transform everything that comes after. A single moment of full attentiveness can change all the moments that come tumbling after it–not just in the next hour or day, but throughout infinity:

A woman sits and spins yarn from wool.

A man stands and sharpens a blade.

A cook stirs the soup, tastes it, adds a pinch of thyme.

The woodworker sands the wood, brushes it off, examines it.

The potter places a finger into the center of the lump of clay and with great care, opens it to shape a bowl.

The runner listens to the rhythm of breath and feet touching earth.

The musician lifts the instrument, giving themselves over to it.

The mother presses the infant to her milky breast.

A child flies through the air on a swing, laughing. Wind lifts the hair, weightlessness drops the belly.

A cat lies luxuriously in a beam of sunlight.

A lover’s fingers trace the gently sloping rib-cage of the beloved.

A pen in hand moves steadily across the lines of empty page.

The snow shovel scrapes against an icy sidewalk.

The gymnast trusts the strength of her muscle and precision born of practice.

A barber holds a straight edge razor above the adam’s apple.

Dough is placed upon a floured wooden board and kneaded for bread.

Groceries are taken from the bag and placed in cabinets and drawers.

The calculator, pen, checkbook, budget and bills are laid upon the desk with the same attentiveness as a priest lifting the chalice to lips longing for a drought of the sacred.

Wrinkled bedding is pulled and smoothed taut across a mattress.

The essay is read through another time. Small edits are made to improve it.

Fruitless limbs are pruned from the apple tree.

A drop of darkly scented oil is prayerfully placed behind the ear, at the breastbone, and the wrist.

Fingers hold coins to be placed into slots for parking, beverages, tolls and children’s hands.

Music from a passing car fills the street.

The high cries of seagulls pierce a sun-induced trance induced during an afternoon at the beach.

Bells jingle as a shop door closes behind you.

The rituals of daily life are often rushed. And, missed. As we move through them, our thoughts are busy elsewhere: What do we have to do next? What time is it? How much time do we have? What was I looking for? Don’t forget to make that call. Put milk on the grocery list. What time are we meeting? Stop to buy gas. Drop off those forms. Pick up the mail. What am I going to do for lunch? Talk to so-and-so about such-and-such. I hope I have time to get to the gym . . . . On and on and on goes our litany of what must be done to meet the demands of living. Relentless. Exhausting.

Often, in the work I do, students and clients are concerned with defining and pursuing their life’s purpose, or their Work: The gift they alone are fit to offer the world. Their passion. The one thing that will fulfill them. Their dharma. The idea of finding and doing The One Important Thing has been deeply influencing our culture for at least two generations. It has infected every aspect of education, earning, relationship, the decision to have children or not, the friends we foster, where we live and, even our spiritual practice. We’ve been brainwashed to believe, “Do what you love and the money (and fame) will follow.” We are obsessed with the search for The One Thing and the fulfillment of the things it promises.

Before that, though? Work was what we did for money. It’s what made the rest of the moments of our lives–our real lives–possible and worthwhile. Preceding that, our days and weeks, seasons and lifetimes, were still filled with the mundane tasks survival required of us–but at a much, much slower pace. You cannot pull the shoots of plants nor rush the rains. Agrarian life entailed a lot of waiting.

We tended our gardens and animals, stored and cooked food, spun wool, sewed clothing, wove blankets, chopped trees for firewood and furnishings. We collected reeds, rainwater, berries and herbs. Yes, we had daily rituals that had to be completed, but those rituals were far fewer than those we try to cram into sixteen hours of wakefulness today. How ironic that with all our time-saving devices from washing machines to automobiles, email to instant-messaging, we are far busier, infinitely more distracted, more lonely, less fulfilled and less present than ever.

We are obsessed with doing things faster. We are addicted to efficiency. We have made a religion of multi-tasking, and pay people to teach us better time-management skills.

We take a certain pride in being busy. When asked how we are, we boast or complain with false-humility, “Busy! I’m so busy!”

Being busy means we’re being productive. Convincing ourselves and others of our productivity and busyness is how we affirm we are playing by the rules of end-stage capitalism. Both our busyness and hard work are symptom and result of a world that views everything–including us–as a commodity.

Our perceived scarcity of time colors everything we choose to do and everything we refrain from doing. How often have we turned down an invitation to spend time with a beloved friend or family member? How often have we hurried through our morning routines, gobbled down breakfast, grabbed a to-go cup of coffee to drink in the car while we sit in rush-hour traffic? We cut off the words of our children because, “We have to hurry!” We omit eye contact, a full embrace and a meaningful kiss, substituting it with a quick peck on the cheek and a mumbled, “I’m running late.” We arrive breathless to every meeting and event.

We say we don’t have time to engage in a daily spiritual practice, take baths instead of showers, cook dinner, write thank you notes, wrap birthday gifts, call or text to say hello, go for walks, create things, take a day off, go to bed early, cook our own meals, sleep late, make love, see the doctor, read a book, learn something new, take a vacation, see a friend in need, volunteer our services or make it to a family member’s funeral.

While we are busy being busy, we are not taking time to live.

Life may be busy, but busyness is not living. Living deeply and richly may mean developing a new relationship with Time. It might require we take Time by giving focused attention to smaller and smaller details.

What if the way you stir your coffee, or wake the children, feed the animals or sweep the kitchen floor were done with slow focus? What if, in those few moments, you gave one-hundred percent of your attention to the task at hand? What if these details of our daily round were given precedence and predominance above all else? What if these are as important to your well-being and long-term goals as your activism, your yoga practice or your career?

These mundane moments are weighty. In them, we find connection, love, gratitude. Like honey, their sweetness clings to us as we move through the remainder of the day. The taste of them lingers. Our undivided, loving attention to detail, to people, to creativity and experience, actually causes Time to hold still, along with us. In this, we learn we have the power to make Time.

The faster we go, the more we miss and the faster Time runs to keep up with our culture-induced productivity. Likewise, the slower we go, the more we notice and tend to.

And, Time–like a good friend, slows its pace to meet ours.

It’s okay to do less. It’s okay to make Time. It’s fine, especially in the beginning, to create time in very small increments . . . while learning to trust yourself and the relationship.

Karina Black Heart

Karina B. Heart is a writer and Feri Witch slowly allowing herself to go feral. She’s spent the last decades deconstructing gender, race, class and religion relying upon lived experience, the collected stories of others and academic study. She lives in the bluest part of the blue bubble of liberal Massachusetts, in a tiny loft with her almost-adult children and her mentor-kitten, Professor Bean.
You can find Karina writing on Patreon, Facebook and, ocassionally on Medium or her blog at

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Resist beautifully!


3 thoughts on “Resisting the Commodification of Time

  1. Such a great post, thank you. Having time for something is really a question of priority, but how many people make time to think about what their priorities are, what they truly want? It seems like the whole world is so busy chasing its tail! When I next feel the business of life piling up on me, I’m going to reread this post 🙂


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