“The chief beauty about time
is that you cannot waste it in advance.
The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you,
as perfect, as unspoiled,
as if you had never wasted or misapplied
a single moment in all your life.
You can turn over a new leaf every hour
if you choose.” Arnold Bennett
It's Monday, 1st June 2020. A new day, a new week, a new month, and for me later in the month - on the 20th (well the 21st), a new year of life - my 77th, no my 78th year - I shall have finished with 77. An unremarkable milestone I think. Or is it? After all every milestone reached is an achievement is it not? We are also in a new decade and just past the beginning of a new century and a new millennium. Significant. A time to take stock, make resolutions - or is it?
But are those points in time real? Other calendars see time differently so the month, year, decade, millennium are really arbitrary markers of time passing.
So what does 'new' mean in terms of time? Well the only significant and unchanging things are the day/night (also very fluid), the equinoxes and the solstices. The seasons are not even the same because they are not only dependent on where you are on the planet - northern or southern hemisphere, but also on which particular kind of climate zone you live in. Monsoon lands have three seasons I seem to remember, the equatorial zone has none - it's the same all the time, and I think I read somewhere that Melbourne actually has six seasons.
So really the only definite markers of time are the beginning and ending of the day, and those equinoxes and solstices.
“Morning will come, it has no choice.” Marty Rubin
And yet - that changes too in terms of the length of the day. And that entirely depends where you are in the world and at what time of the year. But yes the sun comes up and the sun goes down - even if it is only a tiny bit at the poles.
And why do we divide the day into 24 hours and the hours into 60 minutes and 60 seconds anyway? Well it's pretty complicated, but down to first the Egyptians, and then the Babylonians with a bit of input from the Chinese and others. None of it, it seems to me closely based on a particular natural phenomenon. But if you want to find out exactly how, go to the Scientific American which will explain.
Anyway, why am I talking about this at all and what does it have to do with food? Well probably not a huge amount to do with food, but I will try to link it. Really it has to do with me turning over a new page in my diary and making a to do list for the week. Every week I make my list of things I aim to do each week. Some of them are regular and minor - how many walks, weeding sessions, blogs, etc. but some of them are 'new' resolutions. And then at the beginning of year, I and lots of people in the world, make new year's resolutions. Which got me thinking about the nature of these markers of time and why we feel the need to make resolutions when one of these - very artificial - markers is reached.
“For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning." T. S. Eliot
I mean, time is fluid really isn't it? Other than that beginning of the day - although in addition to the variation in when that might be around the world, there is also the variation in the time when an individual's day might start. Are you woken by your baby at 5.00am or are you lucky enough to be retired and can start your day whenever you feel like it? Ditto for the end of the day. In times gone by when we had no means of lighting the dark, the day ended when the sun went down. Now the day ends when each individual decides to go to bed before waking and starting again.
“Every sunset is an opportunity to reset.” Richie Norton
But I'm waffling - I knew this would be difficult. Because really what I wanted to look into was why we feel that need when an arbitrary marker in time is reached to reset, to make resolutions, decisions for the future. And this I really don't understand. Why do we need that nudge? Why can't we just decide to do better, to start something new, to change, any time we feel like it?
"I believe in living life the way that you want to live it every day, and if you do that, you don't really need to have New Year's resolutions." says Tom Ford, and he is quite right, but it's so difficult to do. And he must have deadlines to work too. But in a broader sense he's quite right if he's not just being self-indulgent. But it's hard to do isn't it, to decide in the middle of a day, in the middle of a week, month, year, decade, lifetime to change the way you do something, to start something new, to set a goal?
How did we become so locked into units of time being the points at which decisions are made? At various times in my past I have tried to do away with a watch. Virtually impossible if you are a working person - there are deadlines to meet, meetings to attend ... But if you are not working then you still have your body clock to tell you whether it's time to eat lunch, cook dinner go to bed. Food - or the desire for food - is another marker of time is it not? Variable as it is from culture to culture and stage of life to stage of life. Besides you can't actually get away from clocks these days. There are digital clocks on every bit of electrical kitchen equipment, well everywhere in your house. You know this from the number you have to reset when the power goes out! So even if we want to break the shackles of numerical time, we can't.
I said I would get to food in relation to resolutions and when those resolutions are made. Difficult. Here's just a little one. Every now and then I make a foodie resolution. I have written about some of them in this blog. Indeed this blog is in itself a resolution to have a daily exploration of a food related thing. I made a resolution about trying a new recipe every week. I made a resolution to cook a 'special' meal for David every week. I have made various worthy resolutions - eat more fish, more vegetables, go vegetarian for a day every week (units of time again), eat more legumes. And here's the thing about resolutions. We don't keep them do we?
All those weekly resolutions I write in my diary? I tick them off if I achieve them which gives me mindless satisfaction - like finishing a bottle of sauce or oil, or vinegar, or a tub of butter. But many of them remain unticked, or not ticked enough - 3 walks? Maybe there are only two ticks. And this gives me a mild feeling of inadequacy which surely can't be good. So are we setting ourselves up to fail all the time? And where's the point in that? Do we really only feel good when we finish something and can give it a tick - even a mental one?
Sorry - this was a real ramble.