Out of Time
The most lasting sensation from my late twenties right up to the early days in my thirties is one of being out of time. Like the gaps in which to pursue all the things that make me Me have been narrowed into very skinny pavements on which to manoeuvre next to a massive, busy and noisy road (the secondary sensation thus being the result of the difficulty of pursuing what makes me Me; a painful sensation of trying to preserve a bit of what I think is me, which usually feels like the front of my face is slipping off my head).
Maybe I always had this sensation, on some level of intensity. The words “it’s getting late”, pasted onto my mind from a P J Harvey song, were very present at the beginning of my 20’s; the way that song lyrics often identify with the dominant sensation you are having, even before you have been able to consciously acknowledge the sensation. Regardless of what the original lyric was referring to within the context of the song, the impacting lyric soon disassembles itself from the song and gravitates towards your own story.
The feeling of it getting late/of not having much time left certainly bares testimony to the first time I truly acknowledged the extent to which we had already made the planet less human-friendly, by carrying on with business-as-usual under the umbrella of short-term-thinking-idiocy. It was indeed getting late, yet I was within the 18-21 age bracket and supposed to have my life ahead of me.
But I believe that the feeling of being out of time isn’t just ecologically concerned. Growing up in a house (and here the notion of ‘house’ is meant to be something that spreads into the wider environment you grow up into) where the music, the focus of documentaries, and the general mood carried was from the decades before I was even born, gave me a feeling (one I only relatively recently began to locate with language) that history had already happened; or, more crucially: that it was more or less on the verge of wrapping itself up. Basically then an emergence of a feeling that I’d better rush out and do what I have to do/ say what I have to say before time is up. Furthermore, much of what had ‘already happened’ was in decades dominated by a culture of youth; the 1960’s, the 1970’s and even (in the counterrevolutionary form of the ‘yuppie’) the 1980’s. You could argue that the counterrevolutionary political economy agenda that came to fruition as the 1980’s began(that has remained dominant since) sent real popular culture back to where it came from, and gave us a bastardized form in its place.
The melancholy predicament I (and possibly others) experienced from our late teens onwards was that of being a spectator of an onslaught of energies and excitement from yesteryear, energies that had been and gone, tried to win, and eventually failed, leaving only their fashion styles, like shedded snake skins for us to mix up in a desperate but futile attempt at something new (to some extent we are all the tragic comedy character Nathan Barley). So, here was a sense that if you were to do anything in life (from finding love, finding success, generally being someone) it has to be whilst young (the unspoken message being revealed through the increasing marginalisation of older people), and it was compounded with a sense that there wasn’t much left anyway because what matters in our culture has already happened!
I’m not really sure though how I can locate the source of my obsession with the passing of time on the doors of these massive players in general cultural experience. There has to be some other reason why I watch the hour glass of my life, and civilisation itself, like a starving man watches food. So what is it? And do others feel it? I have just turned 30, but people have commented on how I discuss my life in a way that suggests that it is already over. Why is it always a feeling of something slipping away, and never of something growing? Is it just the reflection of a negative person, or is this sensation more widespread? An age of widespread negativity, that ‘things are only going to get worse?’ Maybe it’s as simple as somebody who’s constantly-renewing essence is a ‘glass half empty’ one. Am I confusing wider experiences with personal experiences? from what I observe in the world I’d say No, but maybe that’s because all I see in the social landscape is the things that confirm that my sensations are true. But surely they are true! …? I do have a tendency to place the overly positive people in life in either the category of ‘bullshitters’ or ‘the deluded’. But am I right? To quote Slavoj Žižek, surely “we are living the end times” of a 2 millennium old civilisation aren’t we? I crave not to be haunted by the passing of time; I have always envied friends who aren’t so. But I can’t shake the feeling of running out of time. That I, as male human (born to end), am running out of time, within a world (also born to end) which is also running out of time.
What is it that I feel I am running out of time to do? Well, some of my piers/contemporaries would say “to lose the obsession with time and the conventional expectations of having had to do certain things with your life”. I, being me, having to guide me to work every morning, having to eat for me, and find meaning for me; well, I would say I am running out of time to find emotional wellbeing, emotional unison with another(others), and an end to certain discontents that I once thought were the conventional ‘teenage existential difficulties’ until they never ended. And that this time is slipping away faster in a world where billboards/publicity increasingly demand youth or marginalisation, and the economic logic increasingly demands a ruthless career-driven orientation, or destitution.
What is it that I feel we are running out of time to do? “It’s make or break” is a thought that passes through the mind like an alarm clock that goes off every hour. Is it a feeling of running out of time to change the world before it is ‘too late’. 2009; the Copenhagen Summit, “oh no, what the hell are we doing?”; 2010, “voting Conservative will lose us ground on challenging the big problems we need to…..NO NO NO NO NO!”; 2011, The riots, Arab Spring etc, Occupy, all invested in a man knowing that ‘things can’t carry on the way they are’ equated to “something HAS to happen, just HAS to!”; 2012; bad year, too many flag-waving frenzies, so much energy trampled until it was just dust on the ground; 2013, a year of ghosts haunting the present; OUT OF TIME!. And Through all this “just don’t even get me fucking starting on our climate-fucking-up!”
So, a well-meaning friend, may suggest, for my own well-being that I “shouldn’t get hung up on time” that I should “just be”, and I appreciate it. But I am time. I consist of time as much as the Internet consist of porn and photographs of cats. You can’t stop getting hung up when you are the hung up; I hang up the coat I hang up myself too (which is probably why I never get invite to dinner parties). But what matters is whether it is just me who’s life is dominated by this sensation or whether it is a general feeling. And if it is a general feeling, what are we going to do about it? Because I think the supposed-novelty of being able to waltz around in the shedded snake-skin-fashions of any decade we wish has really seen its day as much as the decades have from which they fashions came from.