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Novelist cultural commentator memoirist and historian Eva Hoffman examines our ever changing perception of time in this inspired addition to the BIG IDEASsmall books series Time has always been the great given the element that establishes the governing facts of human fate that cannot be circumvented deconstructed or wished away But these days we are tampering with time in ways that affect how we live the textures of our experience and our very sense of what it is to be human What is the nature of time in our time? Why is it that even as we live longer than ever before we feel that we have ever less of this basic good? What effects do the hyperfast technologies computers video games instant communications have on our inner lives and even our bodies? And as we examine biology and mind on ever microscopic levels what are we learning about the process and parameters of human time? Hoffman regards our relationship to time from jet lag to aging sleep to cryogenic freezing in this broad eye opening meditation on life's essential medium and its contemporary challenges


10 thoughts on “Time BIG IDEASsmall books

  1. says:

    I have enjoyed book enormous falling in love with Eva’s elegant writing style She has divided her book into four main sections addressing time question to our biology our minds our cultures and to our time in time In the first part she discusses an intriguing question of the termination of our time on Earth or simply saying our death The high level of fear and awareness of our inevitable end tortures people so much that they search for new ways of slowing down the processes of aging The only way to slow it down is to cease the metabolism which biologically means death and is fully opposite to what we call life Thus in order to feel oneself alive it is important to let time go through one’s body including aging illnesses and death In the second par Eva introduces concepts of ”hurry sickness” and ”time poverty” which are becoming part of common sociological usage nowadays Life in crazy speed provokes a series of different pathologies In order to avoid stresses psychological disorders and anxiety some people have started to perform oriental religious practices At certain intense stages of meditation a person’s attention is so fully turned towards internal states that the awareness of time disappears almost entirely This may be scientific confirmation of the possibility of achieving cognitive timelessness In this sense the sight inward can help to keep the balance In the third part of the book Eva puts an interesting parallel between steady growing extremism and late modern acceleration of time She explains that post modern religious orthodoxies create alternative temporalities as the result of ever faster rotating time flow The attraction of such strategies is clear engaging steady growing group of people pathologically underachieving the Western life rhythm However the psychic escapism has a dangerous side – extremism and following intolerance ethnic cleansing and military campaigns Another interesting analysis which the author performs in the book is the interconnection between time and information Todays all imaginable sources of information are digital We receive a constant succession of disconnected data from all corners of the world In such insane pace of data flow there is no time to consider things to search for relationships between events and facts We rely on professionals in their analysis since we don’t have time to think about a link into the longer and deeper time of history Eva discusses the problem where we have as a habit to store information on the digital devices where do not rely on our memory any She gives interesting examples from the recent history when people had to rely on their own memories For example Nadezhda Mandelstam wife of famous Russian poet who was imprisoned for the expression of freedom in his poesy memorised all of her husband’s poetry because it was too hazardous to write it down Solzhenitsyn committed to memory each page he wrote when he was imprisoned in the Gulag and then destroyed the evidence She finishes the book with an idea that we need to accept our own temporal limits if we want to keep deep sense of our humanity If you interested in reading her amazing book I would recommend listening her presentation


  2. says:

    Time written by Eva Hoffman is one of the books in the Big Ideas series in which writers are encouraged to think about our world afresh including politics our passions and preoccupations and our ways of seeing the world They are meant to stir debate let's see if it's worked with myself and then with YOUTime is a fact of our existence unyielding in its forward march tick tock tick tock never standing still never moving backwards always onwards and into the future And yet medical research has extended our life spans while computer science and digital innovation has shortened time into nanoseconds We can travel across and between time zones at the speed of sound and even exist in them simultaneously via our phones or computers We work longer hours and yet suffer from a lack of timeEva Hoffman has examined all of these issues in her book organised into four chapters Time and The Body Time and The Mind Time and Culture Time in Our Time each calling on aspects of psychology philosophy neuroscience biology and history so there is something in this book for everyoneTime and The Body This opening chapter is focused on the physical effects of time the relationship between time and our bodies The two areas most discussed are sleep and longevitySome of the causes of endemic sleep shortage have to do with the material conditions or requirements of our lives which are time related Shift work frequent long distance travel the availability of electric light and the incessant activity of cities all contribute to people getting less sleep The work routines of upscale professionals often call for greatly extended or irregular hoursIf we want to make sense of our days if we want to fill them with something purposeful than mere existence if we wrestle with our own significance and insignificance that is because we are conscious of our own impermanence Myth religion and philosophy have arisen from the need to reckon with our awareness of mortality We have created fables of the world’s origins of the afterlife and of eternity in order to imagine measures of time larger than our own and to counteract the fears of our own endingHoffman's main point is that our physiological requirement for sleep as a mode of recovery is governed by time itself which is a function of our personal lifestyle and that this lifestyle is governed by the interpretation of our own mortality spurring us on to fit things in to our limited lifespanTime and CultureThis was my favourite chapter surprisingly ahead of Time and the Mind even though as a psychologist and with degrees in chemistry I understood the references to neuroscience Culture is something we can all identify with we do it regularly when we travel abroad away from our own culture with its previously unnoticed influence from and relationship with time How often have we landed in a foreign country and found the pace of life there different from our own? I've been convinced for a very long time that our holidays in the south of France or in Spain were as much about the flow of time as about sunshine and the wine Then there are our frequent trips to Kathmandu which I shall mention later The chapter begins with these words from the authorIn the initial stages a child’s sense of time develops through its relations with intimate others adults who already embody within themselves certain patterns of temporality Those patterns in turn reflect and are largely created by culture that system of visible customs and invisible assumptions unwritten codes and subterranean values which structures even if we are not overtly aware of it our perceptions and views of the world In Western cultures for example it is an unwritten but widely understood rule that we need to learn how to show up for an appointment at a mutually agreed time or to arrive for work at the appointed hourI guess we all intuitively know this but it's just the beginning as the rest of the chapter reveals for example university students who show up for classes whenever they feel like it in Brazil trains which arrive a day late in India and in one instance of extreme slowdown waiting three days for a long distance phone connection in Nepal Hoffman extensively describes the work of Pierre Bourdieu ‘The Attitude of the Algerian Peasant Toward Time’ written in the 1960sAlgerian peasant culture has an attitude of submission and of nonchalant indifference to the passage of time which no one dreams of mastering using up or saving All the acts of life are free from the limitations of the timetable even sleep even work which ignores all obsession with productivity and yields Haste is seen as a lack of decorum combined with diabolical ambition A whole art of passing time or better of taking one’s time has been developed hereThe chapter continues highlighting the seeming correlation of this bucolic attitude towards time with the peasants absolute lack of control over their static socialcircumstances This is what I have constantly experienced in Nepal both as a tourist in my wife's homeland and as the head of an education aid organisation It is culture and custom that determine and shape individual behaviour because the economic and power levers are weak across the general population Fatalism rather than futurism is the cultural thread throughout Nepalese societyI needed two attempts to complete this book I bought it a couple of years ago because I was interested in the Time Culture connection and having read that chapter I then put it down and moved on to something else Maybe I was short of time But having now read all of it on reflection it's a very good book as a general read whatever your time of life your career or your culture It will open your eyes to your own attitude to time and what is influencing your use of it I wish I'd read it when I was much younger but it is certainly influencing me today in making the most of whatever time I have left I hope you'll read it tooAcross all of these chapters should you read the book yourselves you might find it helpful to first familiarise yourself with the two Greek words for time Chronos and Kairos it will help you to understand the rationale and significance of each of Hoffman's chapters


  3. says:

    We all have different perceptions of time and Eva Hoffman's book describes the various influences biological cultural technological It is a fascinating look into how we are creatures of time even though we try to manipulate it and make it work for us For example I never considered that we perceive time through the looking glass of mortality Without our inevitable demise we wouldn't be able to enjoy moments and appreciate our lives for what they areHoffman gives excellent examples of time from literature academia and philosophy and she is very thoughtful She makes complex concepts accessible without making them boring The one thing I wished she had expanded upon was how music is the medium most capable of expressing all aspects and dimensions of both measurable external time and subjective lived temporality p 187 The conclusion was thoughtful not to say anything less of the rest of the book which was also just as thought provoking but I think I probably could have read a whole book on music and time perceptionIt is definitely a quick read but also requires some rumination and reflection which of course I think is the aim of the book


  4. says:

    Set myself a target of reading 12 books this year at least one per month and I thought it'd be a good idea to delve into some non fiction types of books and being particularly interested in the nature of time shaped by my LOVE for Interstellar and the feelings of transience I was feeling after finishing schooling this was a really solid read covering a large breadth of how time shapes our lives if only I could cover such breadth in my essays too and Hoffman's writing is extremely intricate though at times it felt that her ideas were a little all over the place and it took a couple of re reads of certain pages to fully grasp some concepts But that aside a riveting read and extremely thought provoking highly recommended


  5. says:

    The reviews of this book at are atrocious but I found it quite an interesting read Contemplating time from the perspective of subjective experience body and mind as well as culture and time in our time Hoffman questions and speculates freely on the nature of time the perception of time and how technology is altering how we experience time Perhaps not the most profound contemplation but still one that I found interesting and thought provoking We all live in time and yet give it fairly superficial attention This book may prod others to a deeper investigation of the very medium we live in


  6. says:

    A philosophy of time how it changes us and how we change it There was a certain amount of plowing on my part to get through this but that is not to say I didn't like it or appreciate it Time is a tough concept to get onto the page and so far Hoffman has done it best for me You'll read how time is handled differently from culture to culture from generation to generation and within your own body How the elephant and the mouse have different time concepts how time is measured in space It's a book to be tasted a paragraph at a timeor maybe read again someday Someday


  7. says:

    A brilliant philosopher who really got me thinking about time particularly multi tasking versus focused thought relativity death the lifespan of the blueberry bush and Wonderful read


  8. says:

    I don't often pick up such books of essays but got it from the library on a whim but loved it Most of the stuff is known but very well written


  9. says:

    Is time subjective or objective? Is time a useful construct of our mind to organize our temporal existence or does time exist in nature the universe? The answer is both Nature life our physical body the sheer neurological mechanics of our brain operate on a schedule Time is therefore built into us It is linear one directional and we cannot go forward or backward in time But we could travel in time in our mind Our personal identity whom we presume to be or want to be as individuals depends on memory on hope On the one hand we are biologically limited by our brain that is actually physically chemically takes shape as we grow and develop and experience life events positive and negative feelings On the other hand in order to grow and develop and become experienced that is accomplished our mind also imposes a temporal regimen that however imperfectly negotiates our individual experience of time within the context of the general culture that molds our sense of time and how to experience time Eva Hoffman's Time confronts the problem of cultural insensitivity of modern technologically advanced fast paced unyielding competitiveness and the survival of the fastest vis a vis cultures that have another conception of how to experience time spending time at work in leisure etc Even in progressive urban centers symbolizing the oftrepeated diversity in the United States in particular the root of the problem is aggressive self fixated hubris when the cultural sense of time becomes synonymous with an almost immutable biological time that is built into us leaving behind just the veneer of self congratulated self promotional diversity


  10. says:

    But it also seemed to me as I watched and imbibed the routine tensions of American life that what was being traded in was nothing or less than the experience of experience itselfThe hours spent sleeping are an interval in which we cannot 'do' anything and nothing is seemingly accomplished this in our societies is seen as either inefficient vaguely shameful or at the very least as sheer waster of time Perhaps just as saliently sleep entails the temporary yielding of active will and subsiding into a passive state and this too may cause difficulty within cultures which value staying in control 'The most damaging and persistent delusion we've acquired about sleep' writes Jon Mooallem 'is that this vital human function is optional As one psychologist puts it 'You don't have people walking around figuring out how to get by on less air'for all that humans have wished to live for ever for all that our own extension is to most a frightening and unacceptable prospect for all that the knowledge of our finitude has been nothing less than the condition of human identity All living organisms have their temporal fate but only we know that we have it'Husserl thought the 'now' cannot be prised out of the sequence of the immediate past and the immediate future For example we could not hear a melody as melody if our immediate apprehension of the note before our ears was not accompanied by our 'memory' of the note just before and an expectation of the note to followJust as we are not purely biological organisms so conciousness itself is not pure or insulated from the body or other aspects of the self If it were not for that repertory of complex feeling and affective response buried memories and internal conflicts which we have come to call the psyche we might be merely or fully ratiocinative creatures but we are not We have brains but these are embodied we have minds but we also have subjectivities and it is within the subjectivity that we experience our experience most directly and wholly It is in our felt sensations that we know ourselves to be not only bodies or minds but persons and it is is through the dynamics of our inferiority that what happens to us matters that our lives acquire personal valance and significance that we are not only abstract but specific selvesWe live forward but we understand backwards And as we acquire new experiences or new perspectives on the old ones as we sometimes expand our understanding or deepen our insights so the interpretation of the past can change over timeJean Baudrillard suggests that in hurtling along the currents of sound bites buzz and instantly forgotten information we are losing the very notions of historical time or 'event' In order for disparate occurrences in the political space to coagulate into an 'event' we need to make connections between them to reflect on their meanings and to see their shape in stead as indiscriminate information keeps bombarding us from all sides the happenings in the public realm remain just that something happens and then disappears Journalists and bloggers produce information in real time we receive it in a constant succession of disconnected data And in this perpetually created and perpetually vanishing present there is no time to take stock to consider relationships between occurrences or link into the longer and deeper time of historyIn The Culture of Speed Tomlinson distinguishes 'immediacy' from the 'mechanical velocity' of the preceding era and notes that within the parameters of mechanical speed 'the gap between here and here now and later what we desire and we can expect to receive was preserved in the necessity of effort in the application of will andthe prudential deployment of planning and regulation' Within the reign of current technologies 'The gap is already closed'By transposing aspects of thought and memory to technology we are externalising our mental operations But both the mind an the psyche require internality In order to reflect on a problem or build an argument we need to turn mental attention inwards to mull over ideas and let the mind wander to sift the important from the trivial to follow thoughts in their course and consider the disjunctions and connections between them If the occurrence of a single thought happens in measurable time then the development of ideas or the elaboration of a creative impulse or self examination all happen in extended durations and need persistent concentration Acts of mind require us at least occasionally to be unpluggedBut intersubjectivity like subjectivity requires precisely a deepening and development of knowledge rather than its mere accumulation it requires the gradual growth of understanding the sedimentation of new perceptions and feeling sin the mind and the body until they become part of the fabric or the material of the self The domain of relationships above all is one in which quantity does not equal quality and speed is no guarantee of satisfaction Coming to know another person calls for a certain affective energy and sustained attention for the willingness to travel into the inwardness of another person to probe behind appearances to let empathy follow its own unpredictable temporal pathways Intimacy can rarely fit into sound bite intervals and it rarely happens on scheduleIt is as if we have substituted speed for significance If we move fast enough we can fill up time without reflecting on our intentions or purposes Speed becomes its own self justifying value But the decoupling of activity from larger frameworks of meaning or a sustaining temporal vision carries its own anxieties it fragments time internally as well as externally for without some sense that disparate occurrences are linked through coherent meanings or aims there is no way to connect the moments in which they occur In such a construction of time the pressure on each moment increases enormously creating a heightened state of internal pressure the hedonism of immediacy leads to its own peculiar discontentthe problem of time is inseparable from that of meaning Time is the fundamental medium and condition of human meanings it is the finitude of that element which is the ground of all existential quandaries