Chasing the Second Hand

Covid Time – 2020-2021

I’ve had this odd feeling that time has had an inconsistent quality during this age of COVID. Passing, but leaving little if any evidence of change on the day-to-day scale. Another quiet day, another quiet hour, another zoom, another meal, another walk with the dogs. Yet on a scale outside of our normal awareness, time is not passing but hurtling. A force, pushing ahead of it enormous, jaw dropping change. In the year that’s passed we forgot, but relearned that social relations have a physical component that cannot be ignored. We saw that although many of us could weather an unproductive year, even more exist who cannot pause if they wish to eat. How will this year-long hibernation affect us all in the end? It has happened on a scale that we cannot easily see.

Which brings me to something which gave me a similar feeling… the slow motion disaster. There is a place along the North coast of Central Java where the land is sinking into the sea at the astonishing rate of 8-10 cm (3-4 inches) per year. People living in homes close to the beach became people living in homes in the surf.

Did this man imagine 8 years ago that he would be shoring up his house every night with sandbags and with doors and windows nailed shut against the waves. I don’t believe that he did.

He was likely concerned, as we all are with what was happening right then, that minute, the immediate things. But just at the edge of perception, the full moon high tide gets a bit closer, the sound of the waves suddenly seems louder now. But, he must hurry back to the immediate, a child is sick, there’s a wedding in the village, the jasmine needs to be harvested. This is the level that most of us are attuned to. Chasing the second hand around the clock, attending to the changes which happen from moment to moment. But there is also an hour hand, which sweeps just as relentlessly, but whose movement we cannot clearly see.

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