Making time for periodicity
On the BBC pips, the tweets of Big Ben, and Ecclesiastes
A Twitter account exists for the sole purpose of tweeting, on the hour, the word "BONG" the number of times for the representative hour of the day or night, every hour. In one sense, it is a profoundly silly automated account -- almost more a performance of Dada art than anything else. After all, anyone with access to Twitter is already looking at a device that tells at a glance what time it is, and anyone who really needs a precise hourly time check can tune to the BBC World Service for the pips.
■ Whether art or nonsense, the @Big_Ben_Clock account serves up an interesting reminder that it's much too easy to lose touch with periodicity in this day and age.
■ Newspapers are abandoning print editions all over the place. The nightly network news competes with full-time cable news channels and online streaming networks. Radio is in a death match with podcasts and on-demand music-streaming services like Spotify.
■ Media in particular are far less periodic than they once were, but so are many other facets of life. And the pandemic didn't help things one bit. Working from home, having kids attend virtual school, and having no place to go basically mashed the concepts of "office hours" and "time off".
■ Nature still enforces plenty of periods on us, but it's still important to impose them on ourselves. It's a parallel to the rule that "If everything's important, then nothing is": If everything is happening right now, then nothing is. Nobody has the bandwidth for it.
■ So, as silly as it may seem, people should probably follow accounts like @Big_Ben_Clock, if only to be reminded that we should all try to assert a little more human-made periodicity in our worlds -- even if it's purely whimsical. In the poetic words of Ecclesiastes 3:1, "There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens." But that doesn't have to mean it's always happening, all at once.