The Tyranny of Clock Time 

Clock time is that linear time by which our life is measured in abstract units appearing on clocks, watches, computers, and calendars. These measuring units tell us the month, the day, the hour, and the second in which we find ourselves, and decide for us how much longer we have to speak, listen, eat, sing, study, pray, sleep, play, or stay. Our lives are dominated by our clocks and watches. In particular, the tyranny of the one-hour slot is enormous. There are visiting hours, therapeutic hours, and even happy hours. Without being fully aware of it, our most intimate emotions are often influenced by the clock. The big wall clocks in hospitals and airports have caused much inner turmoil and many tears. 

Clock time is outer time, time that has a hard merciless objectivity to it. Clock time leads us to wonder how much longer we have to live and whether “real life” has not already passed us by. Clock time makes us disappointed with today and seems to suggest that maybe tomorrow, next week, and next year it will really happen. Clock time keeps saying, Hurry, hurry, time goes fast, maybe you wil miss the real thing! But there is still a chance.. Hurry to get married, find a job, visit a country, read a book, get a degree…Try to take it all in before you run out of time.”

Clock time always makes us depart. It breeds impatience and prevents any compassionate being together. 

Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill, Douglas Morrison from the book Compassion