It will take you, on average, 2 minutes and 34 seconds to read this newsletter. Unless you read it out loud, which I do not recommend.
I can make this feel much longer if I pack these lines with difficult dilemmas and complicated concepts. Just watch. From school, you may remember that a clock at the top of a mountain will move slower than one at a beach. This is called time dilation, and it can actually be observed, although it will hardly impact you at an earthly scale. Time dilation is explained by Einstein’s general relativity and the warping of spacetime by the gravitational force of large objects. Does this mean super-heavy things can stop time altogether? Yes. Or no. It’s complicated. Depending on whether you’re an eternalist or presentist, time is like a place somewhere you can go or only the now.
I can also speed up time for you by applying the same trick life plays on all of us: when we grow older and form fewer new memories, time speeds up. I’m fighting this experience of time and losing, just as I’m losing from my inbox and to-do list and ambitions.
Time has been on my mind over the past months—all time. With Stichting 2030, we’ve teamed up with Merlijn Twaalfhoven to create a movement of time rebels. A time rebel opposes the tyranny of the now. Instead, they take active responsibility for future generations. Our movement, De Tegentijd, starts with a poetic/musical walking tour, which links deep time to the now and near future. In that sense, it’s a rather eternalist movement: past, present, and future are equally real. And by visiting past and future, we shape the now.
The project has allowed me to follow some of my lingering interests unabashedly. It allowed me to interview astronomers like Leonard Burtscher, who is also an astronomer for planet earth. It allowed me to learn from experts at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies about the geopolitics of the energy transition. We’ve spoken to artists and communicators that know exactly which words and ideas move people to action. Time slowed down regularly and considerably for me.
(We’ll have an English language version shortly, so if you have space for a 1-hour walk with follow-up conversations in your theatre, museum, library, or community center, let me know.)
Alas, I have a long way to go in my own fight against the now. In the fifteen years or so of my Before Corona Career, I noticed a steady decrease in the time between idea and deadline. Clients would email just weeks before an international assignment or days before the planned kick-off workshop. That is not a complaint. I love the pressure of now now now. I think. I like that I’ve built the skills and network to have a short time to market for my ideas.
And I’ve come to expect the same of others. Shopping online, “delivery in 3-5 business days” feels like forever.
One of the lines in De Tegentijd I like best squarely confronts my weakness. Imagined by Merlijn, it says something like (my translation) what you order today before 11 pm will still be floating in the ocean in 100 years.
I asked a geologist what will remain of the now in one hundred million years. Likely, she said, only a thin layer of sediment rich in specific rare minerals. Some fossils here and there. The rest… even the plastic soup, may revert to the fossil fuels it came from given enough time, pressure and heat.
Apologies if I haven’t replied to your email or WhatsApp yet. I’m about two days behind on everything, but I’m learning to be an eternalist, so your message is a true to me now as when you sent it. We’ll talk soon! Until then, take care,