Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
What follows is something I wrote and delivered at today’s installment of The Paper Machete, Christopher Piatt’s weekly cavalcade of artists, journalists, and sundry interesting people commenting on the news of the day.
Chris asked me to give him 5-7 minutes on the topic of Daylight Savings Time, as tonight we spring forward, collectively losing an hour. These are those minutes.
My wristwatch has been getting louder.
I first notice it sitting at my desk again, across from the screen again, just myself and the blank white document again, my elbows on the armrests and my hands entwined again, staring at my empty frustration with the same hateful, predatory eyes that you need in order to survive ten minutes in a room with Garry Kasparov. Blocked again, subdued again, and the room is so quiet you could hear the angel on the head of the pin, screaming with terror as it drops.
But I don’t hear that. I hear my wristwatch. Tick, tick, tick, but it’s not tick. It’s heavier now, it’s more profound, it’s thick. Thick. Thick. Thick, and I don’t know when it became so assertive. I don’t understand. I think of this wristwatch, my wristwatch, sneaking off late at night with a book on how to boost your self-confidence, slamming its dial up against the wall so it can get just enough light to read Pro-Active Tip #44, Communicate Your Needs Clearly, so now it does. It’s become this bizarre little Willy Loman wrapped around my arm, repeating echoing echoing repeating Attention Must Be Paid.
And I don’t mean to further personify something that already has hands and a face, but the only other solution I can imagine, because it’s ridiculous to think my hearing has somehow grown sharper with age, is that certain frequencies of sound have become quieter, so much so that now the regular volume of my wristwatch can cut through to my ear. I find it deeply unsettling to think that frequencies of sound can die out permanently, that a sound could go extinct. If I believed that, I think I’d find it monstrous to shut off a radio ever again.
So I tell you that my wristwatch has been getting louder and we all recognize it for the metaphor it is, that even though I’m talking about my wristwatch I am not in fact talking about my wristwatch. I’m talking about mortality. I’m talking about our understanding of mortality, our sense of ending. How we all hear our own clocks ticking, how we all hear our own graves stalking closer. There’s a skeleton holding an hourglass. There’s a boatman with the head of a jackal. There’s a withered old hag with a thread and a pair of scissors.
Here is where he starts talking to you in the third person. He starts calling you his friends and adopting this odd wise man of the tribe cadence, as he encourages you not to be afraid of time. He tells you how there’s no point in being afraid of time, my friends, because it’s a constant of the universe, time is, persistent and unfeeling, it was here before the atoms and it will be here after the matter implodes. Time is the great consumer and nothing you can do will stop it, my friends. Relax, he says, and enjoy your devouring.
Here is where he drops the third person. I was only doing that for dramatic effect, he says.
Early tomorrow morning we lose an hour. It just up and vanishes, poof, like a plane traveling too close to the wrong side of Bermuda, but then, it was always just a borrowed hour, wasn’t it; something we gave ourselves as a gift last autumn. I’m fascinated with Daylight Savings Time. We lose an hour of sleep, sure, we all groan about that, even those of us who were planning to be out all night, even those of us who don’t sleep very much anyway, we feel this innate sense of burglary when we spring forward. It’s a government program, you know, and so I admit, I am waiting with a sick sense of enthusiasm. I am waiting for that first teabagging maniac to cry out that socialists have taken to stealing time from the American people, they have stolen an entire hour from us all and they are feeding that hour to Barack Obama’s Kenyan voodoo vampire TelePrompter; RISE UP, AMERICA! RISE UP before the socialists pull down the sun itself and use the cover of darkness to pass all of their unholy legislation. They are going to indoctrinate your children with medical marijuana! They are going to allow homosexuals in the military to marry their own stem cells!
Where was I. Daylight Savings Time.
Things I’ve learned about DST.
You’ll look at a map of the world, you’ll see it divided up into countries that practice DST, countries that used to practice DST, and countries that never practiced DST, and those last two categories, used to and never, that is the majority of the world, right there. The primary Daylight Savings regions are the United States and Europe, and there’s probably a very venomous polemic to be delivered about white imperialism and its relationship to the clock, but I don’t have that written here right now and I don’t truly believe it anyway. Every time we shift the clock backwards or forwards it messes with farming, travel, medical devices, record-keeping, heavy equipment. We do that on purpose!
Here’s what I like about that. Daylight Savings Time is this rare acknowledgment of the fact that we invented time; that minutes and hours do not just occur, on their own, in nature. We can give ourselves another one, of course, we can take one away, of course. We’re the ones who decided how many, how long, how often. We are the masters of the measurement. We have all this fear of time but we’re the ones what shaped it in the first place, we defined it, we acquired for it an infinite number of temporary outfits. After the apocalypse time is going to keep marching on but it won’t have purpose. Time needs us or it isn’t really Time. That’s the power we have.
So what I’m saying, what I’m trying to say, is this. We have to lose an hour tonight. That’s decided. So this is the hour I’d like to lose.
An hour of bullshit from any awards telecast. Toss it. An hour of infantilizing stereotypes masquerading as situation comedy. Scrub that. The hour you have to wait in line at the unemployment office. The hour you’re just sitting on the tarmac. The hour you waste being angry at something stupid you already knew he was going to say. Gone. However many millions of dollars BlueCross BlueShield spends on fighting health care reform in one hour, BCBS gets that money back so it can pay out some fucking claims with it. All the statistics; however many people just disappear in Burma, in Iran, in Rio, per hour, however many women are raped, however many children are molested, however many guns go off, however many people starve to death, let’s stuff all of it into that one hour, cram it into a cannonball and drop it down a volcano. Let’s get rid of that hour.
If I’m still awake at 1:59 tonight, and I probably will be because I usually am, sitting at my desk with that blank white document, again, I’ll pull the dial out of my wristwatch and adjust the time an hour forward. While I adjust my watch, it stops completely until I push the dial back in. It might cross my mind, in that moment, to not push it back in, and let it suffocate, slowly, on a long-dead second.
I’m not going to do that. That’s not the deal we make with our wristwatches. You don’t wear a wristwatch as a reminder that you’ll die someday, and you don’t wear a wristwatch to remind yourself you’re still alive. But if it’s getting louder, like I think it is, if it’s actually bothering to speak up for itself, then it’s a reminder that so should I.