I remember being so stumped at the beginning of the semester about what time actually meant, and I can say that after a semester’s worth of work that my conception of time has been expanded so much. At the beginning of the course, time was something that I relied on as a sturdy, unquestionable standard in my life. Thinking too hard about time’s passage, aging, social change over time and the experience of time was always very stressful to me, so I chose to view time as an objective reality without giving myself much space to question it. Very early into the semester, when we read Einstein’s Dreams, I already felt my old ways of thinking about (or rather, trying to avoid really thinking about) time slipping away. Reading all of these different versions of how time could work made me realize that my conception of time is neither objective nor unchanging. There is nothing naturally right about the way that we have decided to break time down into 365 days in a year, 24 hours in a day of 60 seconds in a minute. Lightman really challenged my limited conception of how time is structured.
One thing that I was very curious to see pan out over the semester was how theology was going to tie into theme of time. I had no idea that there were discourses about God’s time or that monasteries were one of the earliest time-keeping spaces. Furthermore, even after hearing about God resting on the seventh day for all my years of Catholic school education, I had never done a close read of the actual passages in which this is said. I thought it was really interesting how this idea of God resting on the seventh day tied into a discussion about what the difference between resting and abstaining from doing work means, between leisure and free time.
My biggest takeaway from the class is how time functions differently for different groups of people, such as the incarcerated, black Americans, those with trauma/PTSD, and queer individuals. At the beginning of the class, I recognized that time was a construction, but I had never really grappled with all the ways that the experience of time is different for so many groups of people. I loved our session on serving time, and I feel like I learned so much from our guest speaker about what the experience of time is like while incarcerated. The way that I think about choosing to spend my time is a perspective that those incarcerated aren’t granted because of their highly regimented schedules. The Du Bois excerpt from The Souls of Black Folkthat we read was also one of my favorites because it challenged the evolutionary, commonly held belief that all things naturally progress for the better with time. For those who suffer from severe trauma, the entire conception of past, present and future that I relied on as being very objective is not relevant at all. And finally, for queer individuals, the socially expected timeline of marriage, reproduction and death doesn’t fit. These lessons specifically were the most thought-provoking for me. I think that if I were to pass on some information from this class to another person, it would definitely be about the ways that time functions differently for these disenfranchised groups. When you read the personal experiences of what it is like to make sense of time as an individual with PTSD or a person who is in jail, it’s clear that time is much less objective than I thought at the beginning of the semester.