Thursday, June 20, 2019

A Timeline of a Norwegian Town's Lack of Time

If you've been following Norwegian clock news lately, surely, you've encountered one northern Norwegian man's quest to abolish time. His town is enamored with the idea, and now it's apparently being tabled - less than two days after his proposal made international news. For a group of people opposed to living life by the clock, this is awfully fast.

June 18, 3:42PM EST (8:42PM GMT): 'Don't let the clock lead us,' says Norwegian man seeking to abolish time -National Post

The progression in the titles from these outlets is astounding. From one inspiring man, to wanting to abolish time, to campaigning for it, to apparently having abolished it in the past tense (the Guardian article mentions an upcoming vote, though).

The gist of the time abolition campaign is in two key paragraphs of the Post article above:
Time also passes slowly in the Arctic Ocean, off the northern coast of Norway, when you are floating on a small boat under the bright evening sun, which is where the National Post on Monday reached Kjell Ove Hveding, a retired businessman who is actively working to abolish time in his home town of Sommaroy, a little fishing village of 300 souls. [The Guardian article above places the population at 350 and places the slash in the second O of Sommar√ły.]
Stores will open when the staff is there, and close at other times. Schools will be flexible. Deadlines will be negotiable. Restaurant reservations will be tricky to manage, but tourists will be encouraged to move at their own pace. Importantly, there will be no clocks. Already, a poignant tribute of abandoned watches has spontaneously appeared on the railing of a local bridge.
For what seems so simple (think of any time you've been in a shower or bath on a weekend and lost track of time), it's so multi-layered:

  • Timing everything is a product of the Industrial Revolution. However, sunrise and sunset were key determinants of time in pre-Industrial societies. In northern Norway, as Hveding notes, light and darkness are seasonal. Here, according to the Sky News article above, "Sommaroy, north of the Arctic Circle, experiences a period of 69 days every year when the sun doesn't set - and this, according to the locals, is why the area should be considered a time-free zone."
  • This initiative is largely based on the idea that people are too attached to time, and should therefore break free from it. This would presumably lower stress levels. According to the Guardian article above, "In many cases this [stress and depression] can be linked to the feeling of being trapped by the clock."
The idea is admirable. However, I've already identified a few problems:
  • Stores only being open when staff are there works fine in a localized area, where walking home only to try to go to the store again in a couple hours can be workable. How can this concept ever be ported to a larger geographical area, though? That half-hour drive to Costco suddenly makes a lot less sense when Costco could be arbitrarily closed.
  • Although I eat when I'm hungry most days anyway, eating only when you're hungry could lead to substantially fewer family dinners or, similarly, meals out with friends. Alternatively, there's the risk of showing up and being the only one who's really hungry.
  • Abandoning clocks and watches must presumably also mean abandoning other timers. Otherwise, people would have the ability to tell time, which defeats the psychological purpose of living outside of time.
    • Abandoning stopwatches eliminates any chance that residents of Sommar√ły ever had at being competitive in the 100-metre dash.
    • Abandoning oven timers reverts residents to the older "cook until done" model.
    • Microwaves would all have to have their timers blacked out, possibly by such low-tech means as placing duct tape or electrical tape over the timer. Toaster ovens, which usually require turning the knob to a set time, would be unworkable.
    • Sports would all have to be played to a set number of points, or be played in innings like baseball. One can only guess what would happen to basketball's shot clock.

I'd love to visit a place without time for a week or so. Should I instead visit until I feel like leaving?

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