The Vastness of Humanity, the Haziness of Time.

Space and time. These concepts sound so concrete, do they not? Space is where you are, it’s what’s around you. Time is, well, does it really need an explanation? It is passing even as I type these words, as the sun sets outside and the day melts into night. We rely on it to orient us within our own days. We are aware of it; we do not question it. The Theory Toolbox, though, has some different things to say about these seemingly simple and agreed upon ideas (as it always does). Something in particular that caught my attention was the notion that our perception of space and time differs greatly depending on who we are and what kind of access we have to material goods. For example, I never gave much thought to the fact that as a college student living in nice apartment and making my own schedule, I have far more freedom to “seize” my days than many others might. The free time I have (and the space within which I waste it) is more often than not taken for granted. Consider a struggling single mom, working to raise and provide for her children. Consider cheap laborers in developing nations. Consider minority groups in deteriorating urban settings.  Suddenly the concepts of space and time are hazier, and their meanings are far less agreed-upon. If I want to get somewhere, I grab my keys and get in my car. If I’m curious about something, I open Google on my laptop or iPhone and receive instant enlightenment. In this sense, because of my abundant access to modern technology and, honestly, privilege, I have grown extremely accustomed to a sped-up notion of time and a culture of instant gratification. The thought of consulting a bus schedule and waiting on a bench for my public transportation chariot to arrive strikes me as unsettlingly foreign. Walking to a library and waiting for a desktop computer to open up or, god forbid, pulling a book from a public shelf in the quest for answers is just as absurd. However, these occurrences were not only realities for generations past, but they continue to ring true for many today, alongside dozens of other daily idiosyncrasies that I have barely considered. One quote from this particular reading that stuck with me was the idea that “the spaces we occupy provide a framework for our experiences.” Because the space within which I exist is so remote from that of the mother, the laborer, and the urban minority, my perception of life as a whole is inherently different from theirs, merely by default. All things considered, I have no choice but to agree with the text’s concluding statement – humanity itself is so vast, so broad a spectrum of circumstance, that space and time simply cannot adequately measure the “incredible diversity of human experiences.”

3 Responses to The Vastness of Humanity, the Haziness of Time.

  1. Hannah Hartley January 26, 2016 at 9:47 pm #

    I found your analysis of the chapter on time very thought-provoking. It is always a little odd to look outside of ourselves and consider how others perceive that which we were once certain was only experienced in one way. Your commentary on the instant gratification which many have come to expect is spot on. In addition, I agree with your feelings about the laborious process of going to the library to find a specific book to find a fact. If I cannot find some tidbit of information after a 30 second google search and quick scan through the results, I usually just shrug and move on. This chapter really shoves my assumptions about how I spend my time and even perceive time in my face, like dumping a bucket of cold water over my head.

  2. Franco January 27, 2016 at 2:12 am #

    See my rhetoric on the horror of capitalism wasting the collective time of society. I appreciate your reflection on the “daily idiosyncrasies” of others, and hope you find value in how we might better organize our almost non stop schedules in the postmodern age. As long as we are aware of our own perceptions, we are better equipped to escape the risk of quashing the valid (although not always contextually based) perceptions of others. How might we unite our perceptions, cut through the bullshit as it were, and coordinate time on a societal scale? Is such a thing even possible? It seems that the College barely functions as it is with the current movement of time. Lovely thoughts, thank you for your post!

  3. Prof VZ February 7, 2016 at 9:44 pm #

    Franco, I’m curious what you mean when you say that “college barely functions as it is with the current movement of time.” In any case, some broader, equitable delegation of time–some eradication of all inequalities of time and space–seems hopelessly utopian any more, doesn’t it? I appreciate Abby’s initial reflections on the privilege of time and space–those things that seem like constants, these things we navigate every day with relative ease post serious struggles for many others. One think strikes me though: you should all take the time and space to get that book from the shelf. Reading and researching is less about finding a fact or confirming something we think we might know than it is about discovering new knowledges. We’ll put this theory to the test after spring break when we hit the “stacks” as they call them–now mobile and shifting shelves of books with knowledge you just might not find online.

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