Minimalism is en vogue. Inspired by writers like Marie Kondo and her life-changing magic of throwing out everything, people between Auckland and Alaska are happily trashing toothbrushes, t-shirts, teddy bears, todo lists, travel guides, thrillers, trampolines, trombones, tapestries, and all other knick-knack stuffing their homes, heads, and hearts. In some places, the practice of minimalism has increased cities’ garbage challenges to a point where new collection services had to be installed to gather discarded mothers-in-law, used-up romantic crushes, mouldy conceptual frameworks, and old identities carelessly left in the gutters. And all around the globe, people following minimalist principles report a heightened sense of well-being and happiness.
More recently, however, first timid accounts of minimalists despairing over finding themselves running out of stuff to throw away have been emerging. And at the same time – maybe related, maybe not – a new trend has been secretly and stealthily whispered about in closed, confidential circles of adepts: Chrono-minimalism – the art of getting rid of time, once and for all.
I’m in the fortunate position to have had privileged conversations with some longer time practitioners of this new and overwhelmingly effective method, as well as the unique opportunity to try out some of the techniques myself. All I can say is: The impact of chrono-minimalism on my being has been radical, deep-reaching, and truly life-changing. Given this amazing and unequalled experience, I decided to share my insights – fully aware of how disturbing some of them might feel to those not yet familiar with the concept. I sincerely apologise to those who choose not to follow – killing time is not everybody’s cup of tea, and of course, that’s not a problem at all.
For those whose curiosity has been piqued, here are the four most powerful tools I found in the vast and plentiful repertoire of chrono-minimalism:
- Throw out the clocks: The first – and absolutely indispensable step – towards truly killing time is to throw out all clocks. “All” means “all” – starting with wristwatches, no matter whether Swatch, Rolex, or no-named fake products from Bangkok street markets, moving on to alarm clocks and kitchen clocks all the way to those grandfather clocks actually inherited from grandfathers, grandmothers, or made-up great-grand-aunts who allegedly dragged those very clocks with them when fleeing across oceans to escape unspeakable atrocities. There’s a little challenge in our technologised world when it comes to throwing out the clocks that come with music systems, computers, tablets, or smartphones. I’ve found it practical to either use coloured sticky tape to cover the clock indicator on the display or (for those who priorities aesthetics over price) use a private app called anaxron (which can be purchased directly from many members of the chromo-minimalism circles for a small fee of around 753 €). Once installed, anaxron garbles the times shown on your devices to senseless combinations of digits with no relation to any time shown anywhere else in the world. Some chrono-minimalists have gone as far as to recommend swallowing the sun and the moon, in order to eliminate all traces of years, months, days, and hours. I hesitate to broadly advocate this practice, given some unusual side effects observed in unskilled practitioners.
- Once all clocks are gone, the next step is to crush our feeling of time. The most salient instances of time we encounter in our daily lives are those of having too much of it (often called “waiting”) or of having too little of it (often called “being in a hurry”). Both are painful, nagging, irritating feelings of being out of sync with the world, our intentions, and our deepest inner convictions, creating stress, discomfort, and ultimately lasting suffering. Being too early and having to wait for that friend who’s never on time, doesn’t answer their messages, or can’t make up their mind whether to meet up with you or not is just as nerve-wrecking as almost missing a plane because of a tightly-knit schedule thrown out of whack by overrunning meetings, slow traffic, complicated airport security procedures, and last-minute gate changes. As an antidote to this, many recommend insightful tools of being in the present moment – all of which, however, suffer from the need for continuous practice, repeated application, and constantly reminding ourselves. They’re long-winded, difficult, guilt-ridden, and full of throwbacks. From my point of view, the most impactful tools recommended by the chrono-minimalists are two totally different ones, both deceivingly simple and unimaginably complex at the same time: Falling in love, or falling asleep. Both the heights of romantic love and the depths of restorative sleep reliably cut through our sense of time, removing all relevance of past and future alike – the pinnacle of artfulness for both methods, however, is to achieve the ability to stay with the experience endlessly, without doubt, regret, or the urge to move on.
- Even with all feeling of time successfully eliminated, there remains the more subtle challenge of a hunch of pride triggered by having mastered this elimination. The next step therefore is to give up on the present. This is easy to do when we’re actually offered a present – if it’s our birthday or some other more or less religiously loaded occasion for exchanging gifts, we’re in good luck. We just gracefully, elegantly, and firmly decline whatever is offered to us – leaving it in the offerer’s hands, all the while smiling at them, thanking them, and acknowledging their goodwill and thoughtfulness. It’s okay to watch, examine, or even admire – but we don’t reach out for the present, we don’t take it, we don’t make it ours. We just let it sit there in its alluring beauty, seductive features, and inspiring forms – giving up on it while neither accepting nor rejecting it as it comes our way. If it’s not our birthday and nobody offers us nothing, bad luck. We’ll have to wait until a present comes our way. Nobody can practice giving up on a present unless they have one.
- Finally, once the present is gone, all that remains is to kill the presenter. Again, this is an easy task when we’re sitting in on one of those endless presentations supported by Powerpoint or one of its tinier, hippier presentation cousins – a well-timed, carefully targeted, masterfully executed blow at whoever is presenting will silence them for good. Beware, however, to not take this too literally: Many who thought they had killed a presenter have later been surprised by the presenter’s resurrection from what at the time seemed a dead-sure end to all their presentations. True killing requires true mastery of knowing that there’s no difference between the killing, the killer, and the one who gets killed. Which also means that if there’s no presentation, there’s nobody to kill, and nobody who does the killing.
I have a strong feeling that killing time will be the next big fad – once all space has been cleared from all stuff. And I very much hope to contribute a tiny little bit to chrono-minimalism’s dissemination by explaining the few points above.
Finally, my son urged me to note that it might an issue if killing time also results in deleting this blog post’s date. That risk, I happily take.