Wide-ranging, passionate, and engaging, A Sideways Look at Time makes us see the slipstream of our days in a new and entirely personal light. Though other books have stressed time's scientific dimensions, Griffiths is intrigued by what time "feels" like, how we experience it culturally and in our daily lives. Looking to the natural world, which tells time by its own measure -- circadian rhythms, monthly cycles, glacial time -- she notes that in some ancient cultures there is no word for time, and "yesterday" and "tomorrow" are the same. Children live in the "everlasting now," while women may experience time intuitively, in tune with their own cycles. Lovers, of course, have no sense of time. "But while nature knows a million varieties of time," she argues, "the clock of modernity knows only one," and Western timekeeping has increasingly tended toward standardization and globalization, down to the atomic second that registers Universal Time. The author dates our change in attitude to the Industrial Revolution, where a new emphasis on efficiency ("Time is money") led to a closer measurement of units of time. In contrast to this rigidly linear conception, she celebrates the "wild time" of unbridled nature, "the thirteenth hour." Drawing inspiration from writers and philosophers, native wisdom, and her own experience, Griffiths has issued a personal manifesto against the modern preoccupation with the clock. Deirdre Mullane
The Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
"Time is money." How often have we heard this phrase of Benjamin Franklin's? In Western culture, it's a nearly revered secular scripture, driving our hasty, capitalist lives. But of the myriad, fantastic options, is time really just "money"? We seldom take the "time" to consider the alternatives, despite the fact that for many of us, each day is fairly indistinguishable from the next, the hours measured only by the linear march, minute by minute, of a digital clock.
In A Sideways Look at Time, Jay Griffiths takes readers on a delightful and intriguing worldwide tour of time, illustrating how other cultures use festivals, traditions, and the diverse cycles of nature to mark time's passage, rather than the ubiquitous wristwatch. While other "less civilized" cultures celebrate the slow, sensual, joyful passage of time, honoring elders and preserving folklore, the passage of Western lifetimes -- especially those of women -- is one marked by urgency. Not only do we live at warp speed; we accept increasingly narrow definitions of life stages considered ideal or worthwhile.
No wonder the phrase "time is money" is popular; if properly managed, it holds out the promise of prosperity. But Griffiths astutely notes that "One consumer desire overtakes another. Consumerism's drug-like hallucinations of happiness rely on the fact that once needs are met, desires must be aggrandized." In the end, even money can't keep pace. Griffiths would rather her readers made friends with time, so that time will always be on their side. Make time to read this insightful book. You'll be glad you did. (Winter 2002 Selection)