These days, time seems to be in short supply.
Although manual tasks now take less of our time (thanks to time-saving devices), our calendars seem so very full. Although we measure time more precisely than ever, we seem to waste so much of it. And as we drive ourselves hard to save time and to be on time, we seem to get more and more impatient. Indeed, these days, many people seem really wound up.
With the imminent launch of the Apple Watch, it's worth taking a bit of time to consider how such a radical new timekeeping device might affect the quality of our time -- for the way we experience time and the stories we spin about time are deeply influenced by whatever technology we use to keep time and tell time.
In the distant past, when the only way to tell time was by checking our sundials, time was approximate. No one was sure exactly what time it was. Indeed, there was no precise time. Presumably, then, no one was uptight about being a few minutes late.
A great leap forward in timekeeping came with the invention of mechanical clocks, yet these did not become domestic devices until the 15th century. Then, in 1656, the invention of the pendulum clock gave timekeeping greatly enhanced accuracy. And that gave a huge boost to the idea that the universe itself is like a giant clock -- precise, regular, metered and predictable.
This mechanistic model for the universe didn't have much room in it for the human mind, for divine will, or for chance. But the metaphor sure did get stuck in our minds: to this day, we assume the world should run like clockwork.
Now, this month, we come face to face with the next great revolution in time.
The Apple Watch will likely give rise to some brand new time-related metaphors. Perhaps the days of our lives will no longer be like sands through the hourglass -- we'll just scroll through them. Maybe we will zoom in on the present moment, and then swipe our cares away. We certainly won't have to tell time again: time will be told to us, by Siri.
Given that the watch is motion sensitive -- the twist of an arm will close an app -- perhaps we will learn to flick time away, to shake our fists at time or even to shake up time. Perhaps we will learn to conduct a symphony of time.
As the Apple Watch can sense biological systems and give us very precise physical signals, we will surely have apps that interact with the circadian rhythm -- and all the other rhythms -- of our bodies. This might make time seem more intimate and embodied -- less distant or abstract.
This may encourage us to live more in personal time, disregarding what we once called the time. Thus time may become more subjective, even eccentric. (The watch will actually allow us to choose how we wish to visualize time: as an analog clock, a digital display or a contemporary evocation of a sundial.)
Perhaps time will bend and flow with our moods. Perhaps we will download designer times or celebrity times. Perhaps, with our watches constantly linked to social media, timekeeping will become timesharing. We might even choose to experience how it feels to walk awhile in someone else's time.
Perhaps time will even go out of date. As life speeds up, and we approach the day when everything will be available in an instant, time just might not matter much anymore: there will be no gap between thought and manifestation.
Or perhaps time will become an even harsher taskmaster -- our lives ruled by the beeps of iCal alerts, our watches pumping us up with designer stimulants, starting our cars and making sure we show up at work for yet another shift or meeting, no matter how we feel in the moment.
Of course, carrying so much information on our wrists might consume even more of our time, depleting our most precious resource. It might distract us ever more powerfully from real presence in the physical world, making it even more difficult for us to be in this moment, here, because we are constantly pulled to that moment, there.
One thing is certain: time is about to become even more connected to, and more embedded in, everything else we do.
This makes me wonder if we will ever again lose track of time. I wonder what will happen to that distinctly human pleasure of visiting those places in our minds that are blissfully far from time. Will the ability to escape time become a luxury -- available only to those few people who can delegate timekeeping to others?
All that said, I am cautiously optimistic.
For in my work -- teaching busy people how to use moments of meditation to reclaim time -- I have realized that time itself is actually up to us. And my hope is that we are finally ready to face our personal choices about time.
The Apple Watch brings together many things -- time, information, intention, physiology and user experience -- into one small device. And whether we choose to wear one or not, its presence in our culture may finally convince us that these things were never actually separate: time was always in our minds, and the experience of time always involved consumer choice.
This was not so apparent when we lived by a clockwork model of the universe, where time was seen as objective and mechanical. The clockwork metaphor was perfect for the assembly lines and efficiency experts of the Industrial Revolution. Humans were powerless in the face of time. No wonder we became such victims of time and slaves to time: we were but cogs.
But as soon as we consider time as being more personal, more flexible and more participatory, we get a new opportunity: to play with time or even to dance with time.
In any case, my hope is that we are now entering the time in which we take personal responsibility for time. Let's call it the era of conscious time.
In the era of conscious time, we use time for our own devices.
In the era of conscious time, we know that although technology can influence our experience of time, and can help us come to grips with time, it cannot save time or give us time -- unless we are committed to using that time wisely.
Our challenge, therefore, is to make up our minds to use time mindfully -- taking the time we need and giving our time, with greater discernment, to those things we really care about.
Most important, in the era of conscious time, we must also make time for the timeless. For as timebeings, we only really feel we have enough time when we lose ourselves in moments that are beyond time ... or enjoy the time we have.
Martin Boroson is the author of One-Moment Meditation: Stillness for People on the Go. He is a keynote speaker ("How to Have the Time of Your Life" and "10 Reasons to Invest in the Moment") and runs leadership training programs in the power of one moment of focused attention for stress reduction, innovation and advanced time management. www.martinboroson.com
The One-Moment Meditation App for the Apple Watch, designed by DVMobile, will be released on April 24, 2015. In the meantime, you can download the free five-star app from iTunes or Google Play, or find out more about One-Moment Meditation® here.