The rhythm of life (Pt 2)

continued from Pt1. Previously in my brief history of time (somewhat simpler than the version by physicist Stephen Hawkins) the idea was put to reduce your burden caused by another’s unreasonable demands on your time. The roadside billboards warning of txting ‘M8 it can W8‘ are a pointer to harm arising from a sense of immediacy. Whether due to willingness to please, or desperation to retain work, readily agreeing to deadlines can’t be undone – so take care in committing. A fellow Naval Officer had the rule that the answer to any request is “No! … but make out a case for ‘yes’.” Employment isn’t slavery, so negotiate and demonstrate the acumen that you were selected for. Increased scope must have a trade-off elsewhere, and remember that inability to adapt did the dinosaurs no good at all.

Rigidly held beliefs can be harmful. The frustration of insomnia could be greatly alleviated by recognising that closed eyes are resting those muscles – beneficial even if it has been decided you should be asleep at that hour. Despite individual uniqueness, some patterns of alertness emerge and Perry & Dawson’s 1988 ‘The secrets our body clocks reveal’ explores chronobiology of scheduling to suit our cycle. Changing your habits so that sleep fits into a natural programme requires rethinking maxims for productivity. None of this is new. 16th century St Francis de Sales was ahead of the game in saying “Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed“, an idea repeated by the Dalai Lama. Indeed, His Holiness is fascinated by timepieces, from childhood tinkering with clock mechanisms (see Scorsese’s 1997 film ‘Kundun’) to his collection of rare watches, explained in his book ‘Ethics for a New Millenium’ thus: “It reminds me that I am no different from the rich or the poor. We are the same in wanting happiness and not wanting to suffer. It is also true that I possess several valuable wristwatches …. So I must admit a contradiction between my principles and my practice in certain areas“.

A Rolex?
A Rolex! Really?

And should you too ever understand ancient truths, inevitably the rules change so you’re no longer a time lord. Circadian rhythms are thrown into chaos by illness, which is where Vidyamala’s book begins. I suggest to read that download before proceeding, since what follows is a departure from practical and into existential.

There is no correct response

Impermanence is an aspect of the Buddha’s four noble truths about suffering. Time changes all things, and our attachment to rigidly held views will cause hurt when they pass. “… the suffering latent in every situation we meet, in this case, the suffering of not getting what we want” writes Khentrul Rinpoche in ‘Unveiling Your Sacred Truth’, expands upon the first teaching of life’s unsatisfactoriness. Time is only one factor in the conditions that arise and influence our ‘self’, but selflessness overcomes time’s toll on our mortal life.  Our inability to defer gratification means we want it all, now. But what will you leave behind?

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The rhythm of life (Pt 1)

Time may change me… but I can’t trace time.

vale Bowie.
vale Bowie.

Mic Conway of Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band quipped at a gig, that he used to smoke so much dope that Bob Marley had a T-shirt with him on it …. tho’ he doesn’t do drugs anymore. All he has to do is stand up quickly. [Boom boom]

Time is a theme that so many fabulous artists have been intrigued by, and consequently I’m perplexed as to why Bowie used ‘trace’, not ‘chase’ (a running) time. Time takes its toll, but it progresses our aging in untraceable, non-linear fashion. It’s elusive. The 20th century gave us an explanation that time is relative, even if it’s only the mathematicians who understand Einstein’s physics. To the rest of us the clock seems to tick, in a regular manner. We’re just used to time as immutable, and absolute – but it wasn’t always so.

In the strictly agrarian 1500s, time was organic to working the land. Farming is seasonal, and time integral to nature’s prescribed schedule. But from Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton came this era of science, and the calendar & clock became our masters as time ran its own independent “uniform flow, without regard to anything external“. After 1860, the ubiquitous timepiece had changed every factory and even sport thereafter – newer games basketball and football plays are ruled by the clock, whilst baseball and cricket retain their old turn and turn about.

80 years ago, efficiency expert Ivy Lee pitched the idea of the ‘To-do’ list to the chairman of Bethlehem Steel, for which he was gifted then the equivalent of a few hundred thousand dollars in gratitude. When tasks were attached to timelines, schedules were built. My career * is eminent qualification to advise on project scheduling, which is always done badly. The Gantt chart pictured shows activity dependencies setting the deadlines – which are usually printed off or exported to a manager’s spreadsheet.

Open WorkBench : it's free, and a better product than MS Project
Open WorkBench : it’s free, and a better product than MS Project

Wrong! The schedule is dynamic, and target dates must reflect reality of outside influences eg planting crops doesn’t start immediately after ploughing and fertilising tasks complete, but waits until the rains are starting. The software tool tracks this changing environment (if the project manager is savvy) to constantly revise targets. Nobody need pull all-nighters due to circumstances outside their control, in order to meet a deadline. Decisions made under duress never turn out to be the best of choices, and so we impact future wellbeing for the sakes of achieving an arbitrary goal.

Being rather than doing. The book ‘Timepass‘ by Prof Craig Jeffries, newly appointed head of the Australia-India Institute, examines frivolous activity particularly among tertiary educated but unemployed Indian men. Life in limbo is associated with casual sex and transient relationships, bored drinking and killing time. But on the banks of the Ganges where the Buddha first taught, time is deliberately slowed. Varanasi people, writes Nita Kumar, are notorious for their unpunctuality and never care about waiting. But that is not because “…time has no importance for these people. It is rather that time is too important; it cannot be sacrificed for this or that purpose arbitrarily; it has to be lived to the full, every bit of it … There is no hurry, no sense of time slipping or flying by, or rushing by like a stream: there is no such thing as ‘time’. It is not an external that controls you. It is inside you in that it is a way of feeling. The way you feel, what you are moved to do, is what time it is.” … continued->

* Author: Geoff Kirwood is a qualified Project Manager and certified on Project scheduling tools. Nonetheless is flummoxed as to why it took Defence Materiel 14 years after budgetary approval to acquire sunglasses (although they’re called ocular protection systems) for our troops. Time is money, but not in the public service.

Time progresses at differing paces, perhaps Army Acquisitions staff were doing too much gunga?