February 2, 2017

I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with the notion of time. I am not saying I don’t respect it to make it a point to be dead on the dot for every meeting. No! It’s not that sort of uneasiness. I guess it’s hard to describe as the notion of time has changed with me. Neither do I conduct my affairs in such a way where I am not beholden to the importance of time. It’s not that sort of uneasiness about time either.

If I had to describe my uneasiness concerning time – it simply relates to how we all choose to see time….that has always bothered me. The idea of reducing time into neat pigeon holes of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years.

That to me is just a way to track time…nothing more or less.

When I used to be a salaried man in Singapore. Even then I much preferred to time differently. Hearing the awakening murmurs of trains one by one pulling out from the MRT depot at Tanah Merah meant I needed to rouse myself for the first shift; the smell of pine scented disinfectant on linoleum meant I was probably the first to clock into the factory and there was still plenty left for a cigarette and coffee before work began. The faint rumble of the plumbing secreted above the ceiling boards meant the managers had probably just taken a dump and they would eventually make it downstairs to dump on all of us during the morning meeting. The way the light from the only window slices the photograph of President Nathan who always seemed to smile supremely even when there was chaos in the control room, meant it was the end the first shift. The faint hint of cloves in the wind when I walked thru the connector park to the trains after work told me that I was somewhere between January and mid march. When train lines twisted like plasticine in the mid day heat. I knew it to be hottest of months. Branches scrapping the eaves of houses spoke to me like oracles – the wind had changed direction and the soon the monsoon would arrive. When the winds blew at Bedok jetty blew smelt of red bull mixed with old brass keys – I knew the clouds would turn dark the following day. Staring at the sky, wisps of white speckled bands whirled across an inky blue night sky – I knew it would turn cold and December winds would send sails and flags fluttering. The stutter of birds from their usual three stanza to only one monotonous tone told me they were all preparing to take flight before the monsoon. The lull before the approaching storm – it’s tranquillity mixed with the smell of burnt wires told me the air was nitrogen rich. A lone ant clambering over a half eaten leaf upwards to the trees could only mean the rains would be heavy that season. A plastic bag dancing skywards to the blue beyond in the afternoon thermal like a jelly fish painted with the words NTUC supermarket…usually told me the rains would pass soon and the weather will get hotter. Sobbing cupboards that warped ever so slightly like rope being tighten told me that it would be hotter than what they weather boffins predicted.

You could say I’ve always had my own private relationship with time – time wasn’t a notion where I was somehow distanced from it like a man turning his sights to a clock tower just to tell time – it’s much more…..the scrapping sounds of my feet against sand as I walked spoke the length and breadth of time’s essence. I much preferred to be within the folds of the seconds, minutes, hours like some cog, wheel or spring shifting, notching, twirling in perpetual motion with and not against time – where I was within and never outside…peering from within and not just looking in like some hungry man at others in the warmth of candle lit dinners.

I don’t imagine most people can image how silly I see the way they see time – I can even imagine these same people thinking that I don’t have a right to judge them as bizarre. For trying to reduce something so profoundly omnipresent and intuitive into perpetual moving digits and sweeping hands on a face of a watch.

It’s I imagine another infantile attempt (a poor one at that) by man at reductionism…I really don’t have anything against that. I guess mankind is accustomed to holding on the belief he knows everything there is to know about everything.

But here in the solitude of the wild – time has it’s own rhythm that’s infinitely larger and more majestic than man’s snuffling regard of time. Here time is not only everywhere, but it’s so big that it even makes IMAX feel puny. Not maybe the concept of time that we are all accustomed too – the seconds, minutes, hours, days, months…chronology of tracking the chastening passage of seasons. Rather over here it’s the perpetuity of time itself that seems almost unstoppable – another concentric ring to mark the end and beginning of one cycle in time. The slow arc of the Milky Way that’s always so clear in the desolation of the wild…so clear that it always comes across to me whenever I am hungry like some giant jeweled speckled curry puff ticking and creaking marking time.

I much prefer this version of time.

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