Boredom is everything, man. I think our loss of boredom in contemporary society is one of the greatest, weirdest, ambient losses. It is one of these things that’s hard to quantify the value of. And we’ve lost it so completely and totally that we very rarely have moments to even re-experience it, unless you do so intentionally.
Why do any of us believe our lives lead outward through time? How do we know we aren't continually traveling inward, toward our centers? Because this is how it feels to Esther when she sits on her deck in Geneva, Ohio, in the last spring of her life; it feels as if she is being drawn down some path that leads deeper inside, toward a miniature, shrouded, final kingdom that has waited within her all along.
| Anthony Doerr, Memory Wall
Let us begin with a deconstruction of existing time. You wake with the rising sun, a giant ball of light and heat in the sky that casts sunshine down upon your side of the earth. It does so everyday with consistent regularity. Perhaps you have a device (like an alarm clock or smartphone) which keeps time, and alerts you when to wake up and begin your day, but for most of human history, and for every other organism, no such thing exists. They rely on the arcing sun, which allows one to tell the time of day based on its position in the sky, which of course is relative to where on earth they are. Most organisms have no need to closely watch the sun, they simply react to it in ways so fundamental they hardly ask for any attention. One can feel the morning in the air, when the cold atmosphere of the night holds more moisture than the warm air to come after the sunrise, and dew forms on every leaf and blade of grass to signal the start of the day.
When the sun is at its highest point in the sky, it is "high noon" and the day is halfway through. After that is the afternoon, which gradually, with the sun's lowering in the sky, becomes dimmer and dimmer. Shadows lengthen outward as the sun begins to settle over the horizon. As it breaches the border between sky and earth, the sunset occurs, and one might find rare colors decorating the sky. After the sun sets, there is little light and little warmth, and the night comes. This is generally when people sleep.
The earth tilts with regularity during its 365 day orbit around the sun, exposing parts of it to more hours of sun than others during any given moment. In the summer, depending on the distance and side of the equator in which you reside, the sun rises further from the horizon, and spends more time in the sky, while in winter it arcs closer to the horizon, and the days are shorter and colder. This forms the seasons. For both the Northern and the Southern Hemispheres, the seasons are reversed from one another at any given point. Many lifeforms depend on solar light (like photosynthesizing plants), and thus they breed and bloom and wither and die with the passage of the seasons so as to acquire maximum energy and increase their evolutionary fitness. Therefore entire environments are evolutionarily predisposed to recognize and react to the seasons, and over millennia of very consistent seasons, many species have come to adapt to this sort of annual pattern. This forms the justification for the year and the solar calendar.
The moon is another celestial body that orbits the earth, and it is visually the same size as the sun within the sky. While in orbit, the moon becomes cast in shadow to the point where it vanishes, which is called a new moon. The moon waxes and wanes between the new moon, where no light is visible, to the full moon, where all of the moon is illuminated as a perfect circle. This occurs roughly twelve times per year in 30 day intervals, and forms the lunar cycles. One finds more lunar calendars as one gets closer to the equator, reflecting the lack of apparent seasons in this part of the earth.
These are the physical basis for some of our most common methods of dividing time: the day and night, the year, the seasons and the month. You may have realized that these are very predictable, but they are also not quite static, nor universal, rather they depend closely on positioning and place. They are therefore relative to geography, and display the close intertwining of space and time which is what all time reacts to.
The re-adoption of non-standardized time throughout human society came slowly during the collapse of Global Civilization, but was undeniably vital in reordering the relationship between humanity, its major cultures, and its surroundings. Many societies gradually found standardized time was no longer useful or analogous to cultural ideals, opting to adopt localized methods of time keeping reminiscent to what had existed before the 19th Century when railroads had launched the original project of standardized time. One could now tell time based on any number of factors, and fundamentally every community, and individual, was open to subscribing to times unique to theirselves. The rhythm of the standard day informed the way one spoke about time, and how they represented it. Most individuals for generations continued to be familiar with standardized time, which continued to exist as an international standard, and was deeply embedded into many forms of prior technology, information and artifacts. It was however gradually phased out, or rather fundamentally evolved into new methods.
Many of these new optional times had their roots in standardized time, using base 12 and two full rotations of an identical AM (morning) and PM (night) clock, while gradually adopting other embellishments and quirks. Aspects of standardized time naturally proved quite popular and incredibly durable: the solar year, the month, the day, the seven day week and weekend and seasons far enough away from the hemispheres. Some new forms of time were devoted to ideals of peak globalism, fueled by the seemingly instantaneous possibilities of rapid shipping, international affairs, circumnavigational flight, and the internet. These "global" times sought to capture the whole world in a single moment. No longer would one hemisphere of the world be divided between one day and the next, with time zones striping the globe along hour intervals, but rather a single time would exist at all places everywhere simultaneously. These became notable within the internet and social media, where they erased confusing distinctions around localized time and better fostered global communication and sciences.
For some this was still too localized a method of time keeping, and forms of stellar and atomic time became their eventual standard. This was tied to attempts at interplanetary colonization which required new methods of telling time that weren't intrinsically tied to phases of the earth and were better adapted to long distance communication with various degrees of lag. These methods would be built around far longer intervals, and would gradually come to reflect the regimented nature of interplanetary survival. The essence of these methods lies in an air of patience.
Others on Earth adopted entirely new forms of charting time; for instance with the end of 24/7 news as entertainment (and its associated infrastructure), and the following unreliability of weather forecasts, coastal communities influenced by floods began to develop independent and highly accurate algorithms for time keeping that were based specifically around weather patterns and the lunar tides, which was critical to lifestyles in increasingly submerged coastal communities facing rapidly changing climates. Furthermore agriculture, especially that done without access to vast, well-kept fertile properties, was a uniquely temporal business for entire communities. Getting the fastest growing seeds, with the highest yields, in order to build ample diets, once again informed the calendars and cultures of entire communities.
With further advances in environmental repair (the careful progression of post-human landscapes to their most ecologically durable state) came the crucial need to examine, and respond to, increasingly fluctuating the methods of time that other organisms responded to. With the constant management of these ecosystems by human communities (alongside the careful extraction of necessary resources from them) came a close familiarity with the schedules of the natural day. When certain events might happen, like the early morning song of a certain bird, could be used with increasing reliability to both tell time and judge the health of an ecosystem. In this way time keeping became closely linked with the maintenance of one's surroundings, and keeping accurate time meant keeping an active eye and close attention to the happenings of a landscape. For instance in an aesthetic register, the nested rings of a tree came to be a source of inspiration for multi-year calendars within a number of communities reliant on trees and associated biofuels. This became widely regarded as landscape time, and was almost always unique to a single location.
The most popular form of time was of course one that rejected the convictions of previous ages but allowed for a near imperceptible normalcy to continue, and that was the various forms of no-times that were put into practice near the 'End of Times'. This was the active rejection and eventual deletion of any sort of time keeping. Everything simply happened whenever it would, without any greater reference to any other point. This was implemented in order to, in a strange sense, eliminate any notion of a temporal "finish line" which many population on Earth were anticipating. This resulted in what were considered slow times, where days followed sluggishly after another in a sort of sheltered denial and ignorance to outside world. This slow time was often closely tied to previously mentioned forms of global time, which were continuously used and adapted on the internet. This global time was however of no great importance to post-industrial populations with no existing need for industrial time keeping, no keen intent on 24-7 content, and no sense of long term planning or time-based labor.