Resisting the Commodification of Time

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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 https://www.patreon.com/karinabheart, Facebook and, ocassionally on Medium or her blog at karinabheart.com.


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Resist beautifully!

 

Liberation and the Wild Girl-God

Sometimes, a Wild Girl-God moves in and rearranges what you thought was real. She thumbs her nose at propriety and property, social and monetary capital. She wakes me up in the morning and asks, full of wonder-delight-menace-daring, “What are we going to do today?”

From Karina Black Heart

 

There’s a gorgeous poem-prose piece, “Sometimes a Wild God,” that everyone should read or listen to at least seven dozen times in their lives. For me, it is an affirmation of how I invite the Gods I am in relationship with to inform my life and give me courage to live as they do.

These symbiotic relationships with Gods have gotten me in all kinds of trouble, including roller-coaster relationships, courageous acts and harrowing feats, landing in foreign countries with less than $70 in my wallet, moving out of state to be near my Madre–the Sea, zip-lining, fire-walking, hand-crafting, vegetable gardening, visiting graveyards at midnight, and more recently, installing a rope-swing with a wooden-plank seat in my living room.

Sometimes, God-visits are arranged by invitation. More often, though, after all these years of familiarity, They just come and go like the other members of my family. It seems that this late summer, a certain Girl-God has taken up residence with my teenager and I. Her whimsical hand is evident in nearly everything about my new apartment. From the soaring, sky-lit ceilings to the teeny loft-space up the crooked stairs, to the bird’s-eye view of the alleyway from my bedroom perch, to the spiralling belly-flip-flop-inducing fire-escape and the the dragon-body mountain range visible from there.

Danger and delight walk hand in hand, though. This Girl-God is as enamored of sharp objects, spooky night-walks, high ledges, deep water, loud noises and flames as She is of a bright palette, sweets, finger paint, twinkle lights and tutus. She doesn’t pay any rent or pick up after herself, ever. She’s demanding, self-indulgent and utterly spoilt. I mean, She stirs the stars into spiral patterns in the cosmos. Who am I to deny Her the pleasure of swinging from the rafters?

Her presence is, as always, teaching me something about my life. I’m 53 years old, and I’ve done a lot of hard living. I’ve been super-responsible–striving and trying and clawing and shucking and jiving so hard to live up to the expectations of . . . *gestures around at everything built and sustained by heteronormative-patriarchal-white-capitalist-supremacy.* But, something in me snapped when DT won the election last year. I was compelled to get out of Florida and back to a place where I understand how to live. More than that, though, there’s an entirely new-to-me, deeper-than-it’s-ever-been conviction that no matter how hard I work, no matter how much I push, or prove myself worthy of benefitting from the heteronormative-patriarchal-white-capitalist-supremacist culture, it is not set up to benefit me.

Yes. I am white. Cis-gendered and, once-upon-a-time I could pass as middle-class even though I’ve never had that privilege. But, the privileges awarded me are many. So many. So fucking many. Yet, those financial and other privileges that lift a person upward and out of the daily scramble to survive–these are limited by my gender, marital status, solo-parenting, past trauma, and the weird things I do to earn a living–like writing, and teaching Witchcraft.

There was some kind of sideways, back-handed, totally unexpected liberation that came with the understanding that the systems aren’t broken, but operating exactly as they are designed– elevating some lives while leveling others to the ground. Something about DT’s presidential inauguration sealed it for me. Here was a man who openly flaunted his hatred, his privilege, his criminality, his insensitivity, his greed, his racism, his sexism, his brute ignorance. Here is a slovenly cretan blatantly doing whatever he wants, no matter who it hurts, because he CAN. Here is a man who proved to me, once and for all, that it doesn’t matter how hard I work, how good I am, or how deserving — men like this will do whatever it takes to assure they keep winning while the rest of us lose at a game that’s always been rigged.

So. I made a decision to quit.

Suddenly, Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese read as less of a spiritual bypass and more of an important directive than ever before:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

If it’s true that I don’t have to be good — that no amount of striving, jiving, hustling, creating, marketing, selling, working, toiling, making, trying, crying, doing, planning, calling, begging, convincing, confessing, striving, pleading or plodding was ever going to pry open the doors to “success” — then, I could just stop all that nonsense. Like, right now. Today.

At 53 years old, single, solo-parenting, owning nothing, only a little in debt, worn and softened in all the right places, shored up and sturdied in all the others, I really don’t have anything to lose. I’m not at risk of losing of what I worked hard to attain because my only true goal has been to raise my nearly grown children into good, solid people. My decades of hard work didn’t garner me any houses, stocks, investments or financial interests. In other words, what I failed to achieve wasn’t now holding me hostage. All I needed to do was let go of the dream of making it, someday.

It was shockingly easy. I just opened my hands. I wiggled a little, and the shriveled husk of The American Dream that had shackled my mind and heart, my spirit and body, my work-ethic and passion–just crumbled at my feet like so much dust. I looked down, curious to see if there was anything there I wanted to salvage.

There was nothing. Not a damn thing. But, I swear I heard Janis Joplin singing, “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. . . . and, freedom’s good enough for me.”

When I got back home to MA and saw the tiny loft apartment that I’d already signed the lease on, my stomach dropped. This little place, this third floor walk-up, with the tiny bathroom and kitchen, the lack of closet space, crooked walls, and iron-spiralling fire-escape didn’t look romantic in the least. I’d once dreamt of ocean-front, sprawling houses with swimming pools hot-tubs, and a temple-room large enough for rituals for 50. I’d dreamt of grand old Victorian mansions with a dozen fireplaces, gourmet kitchens with corian counter-tops, park-like grounds for ceremonies and enough bedrooms to lodge thirty retreat-guests. I’d dreamt of walls of windows looking out over natural vistas, huge stone patios with firepits and summer-kitchens. I’d dreamt, at the very least, of my own bathroom and a place I could invite my siblings to visit without feeling ashamed. I knew that if I just worked hard enough and steady enough, these dreams were within my reach. This is America, after all.

But, stronger than the momentary disappointment in what I had not and would not attain in this lifetime, came the taste that only liberty can offer. “Here I am,” I thought as I walked the seven hundred square foot walk-up. “This is where I belong. This is what I have to work with. This freedom is good enough for me.”
It was then that the Wild Girl-God moved in. None of my old things fit in this space. Everything too big, too heavy, too ornate, too adult, too reminiscent of all my impoverished striving to catch up with the Jones’. Little by little, I sold it all on Craigslist. Bit by bit, I replaced it with thrift-shop and garage-sale finds, curb-side pick-ups, and trips to IKEA.

Day by day, I was delighted, and slightly terrified, by what was becoming of my living space. Where there was once dark wood, eggplant upholstery and burgundy curtains, there was now square, modern, veneer-over-paper ikea furniture, a white rug strewn with citrus colored flowers. Mosquito netting and two hundred twinkling christmas-tree lights hung where curtains should be. The dining table doubles as my desk. I emptied my closets and dressers, linen cabinets and storage bins–taking carloads to the Hospice Donation Center. Little by little, I’m replacing the 30 shirts I hated with seven that I love.

I’m in the midst of this gorgeous, scary, delightful break-up with the over-culture’s insistence that we show our worth with material goods. What little I owned when I arrived here is gone. And, the Wild Girl-God who insisted upon hanging a swing from the high, high crossbeam in my beloved tiny-loft, is giggling with a glee that shakes the foundations of everything.

Sometimes, a Wild Girl-God moves in and rearranges what you thought was real. She thumbs her nose at propriety and property, social and monetary capital. She wakes me up in the morning and asks, full of wonder-delight-menace-daring, “What are we going to do today?”

The world is getting harder and scarier with each passing day. DT, unbelievably, is still the president. The Klan and Nazi’s are openly rallying. Anti-fascists are being labelled the bad guys. Christian Terrorists are working overtime to make The Handmaid’s Tale a reality. The planet is being pummeled by hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes,, tsunamis and man-made global warming. The threat of nuclear war, for the first time in decades, is real. Friends of mine are fleeing the country. White people are crying crocodile tears when told to check their racism. It’s never been more false to say, “All lives matter.”

The end of the world as we know it has come. There’s no “normal” to return to. What comes next is entirely dependent upon each of us shaking loose the shackles that keep us tethered to the old systems and our addiction to money-things-more. Resistance–beyond talking points–is born in the forfeiture of investment in that old world. It’s not as scary as you think to undo the curse of hetero-normative-patriarchal-white-capitalist-supremacy that binds us all. Start where you are. What can you divest of, today? What can you cash in on, freeing that energy (money, belief, habit, privilege) so it can be used to build something real?


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 https://www.patreon.com/karinabheart, Facebook and, ocassionally on Medium or her blog at karinabheart.com.


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