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Taking Time
Nourishing Ideas > Philia in the Community > Taking Time

Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven't time, and to see takes time - like to have a friend takes time.
     - Georgia O'Keeffe

Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.
     - Will Rogers

Time marches on. Or does it? Or should it?

We were struck by the importance of the theme of time while presenting an overview of the Philia Dialogue to an audience from diverse backgrounds. In the midst of the presentation and right out of the blue, a mother spoke up and suggested - no, asserted - that what we had just said made no sense to her unless we considered the issue of time. Her son, she said, had enabled her to gain a new appreciation for that elusive commodity.

As it turns out, time is something we had been thinking about. We certainly know it is elusive - but is it, in fact, a "commodity"?

We are no longer sure. And that is the purpose of this section: to look at time - the way it manifests itself in our lives and affects our life in community. The world is changing, and the pace of living (indeed, the pace of change itself) is becoming faster and faster. As the our lives speed up, it is no longer a case of the big eating the small: it is becoming the fast eating the slow. But where does that leave those of us who don't, won't, or can't travel at the new expected pace of life? Where does it leave our communities, our families, ourselves?

We are convinced that the speed of our lives represents a threat to "the force of caring that binds our communities together." In other words, it undermines philia. Because, as Georgia O'Keeffe so rightly pointed out, it takes time to have a friend. It takes time to cultivate relationships. It takes time to listen. It takes time to care.

We think that mom was right. We need to consider the issue of time. So let us slip into the mystery of time in honour of her perceptive reaction.

But not so fast!

Before you delve into the material in this section, we invite you to visit some of the people who have inspired us to think more deeply about this theme.

One group is The Long Now Foundation. Started by Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand and parallel computing pioneer Danny Hillis, The Long Now Foundation aims to get people thinking slower and better rather than faster and cheaper. Their efforts to build a 10,000 year clock and a 10,000 year library are intended to help shift humanity's concept of "now" to a much longer time frame. And with this shift in the concept of now, they hope that a new concept of responsibility for our individual and group behavior will emerge.

We are similarly inspired by the Slow Food Movement, which seeks to liberate us from the "insidious virus" of speed. Slow Food was founded in Italy in 1986, in opposition to the fast-food culture that was industrializing food, standardizing taste, and creating a culture of blandness, uniformity, conformity and speed. The movement has since expanded to 50 countries and counts over 80,000 members worldwide. The Slow Food Movement promotes food and wine culture, safeguards traditional foods and cultivation techniques, opposes the standardization of taste, and defends agricultural biodiversity worldwide. Underlying all its activities is a simple belief: we need to slow down if we hope to survive. Read the Slow Food Manifesto here. Then read about the Slow Food Philosophy - especially "In Praise of Hospitality".

Take Back Your Time is a major U.S./Canadian initiative to "challenge the epidemic of overwork, over-scheduling and time famine that now threatens our health, our families and relationships, our communities and our environment." Its organizers point out that protecting open time from incursion by commercial culture is just as important for preserving sanity and community as protecting open spaces. They've designated October 24 as Take Back Your Time Day, and organized an inaugural conference in June 2004. Building on the success of the first conference, a second Take Back Your Time conference, on the theme of Time to Care, is scheduled for August 4-7, 2005.

The World's Longest Concert

What is the longest concert you've ever sat through? Three hours? Four days? A week? How about 639 years? That's the intended length of composer John Cage's "Organ2/ASLSP" - or "Organ Squared/As slow as possible." The world's longest concert began on September 5, 2021 - with the sound of silence. A long silence: the only sound for the first 1.5 years was air! The first three notes were played in February 2003, with two new notes added July 5, 2004.

The concert is more that just an avant-garde riff on Cage's already avant-garde oeuvre. "It has a philosophical background: in the hectic times in which we live, to find calm through this slowness," said Georg Bandarau, a businessman who helps run the private foundation behind the concert. "In 639 years, maybe they will only have peace."

Click here to read more about the World's Longest Concert (PDF, 65kb). Then imagine settling in and listening to it!

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