How many boroughs in London

Staying in central London sounds like a fab idea. One short walk to the venue where we are offering the training. All the fab delights of modern london. A couple miles to old London (look, kids, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament!). Tube maps full of names like Waterloo, Covent Gardens, places where you think, “I don’t know what that is, but I somehow do….”

Paid $11 in the Underground last night – with full knowledge at my fingertips – to turn a 39-minute walk to dinner into:

  1. an 11-minute walk
  2. a 5-minute tube ride (with 10 minutes of how the hell does the ticket machine work?)
  3. a 9-minute walk

Go ahead. Do the math. I’ll wait.

Looking at the map, London is huge. Vast boroughs sprawl in all directions. And, granted, the
suburbs do stretch away at breakneck speed.

But London is not huge. Los Angeles, my birthplace, the actual city of Los Angeles is monstrous. Vast. Tokyo-like in its godzilla devouring of land between mountains and sea. London is 3km square. Like San Francisco with its maddeningly-small neighborhoods, “Oh, you’re in Waterloo” means something as opposed to, “Oh, you’re in LA. Where? Oh, La Cienega and… ”

Have you ever considered what it would be like to unwind the calendar? What if we weren’t too radical about it, and just took out the months. They’re vaguely silly, anyway, like our 9th month, “September”, which is Latin for “7th month”. What, are we Microsoft? (Windows 7 is not version 7 of Windows. Go check it. I’ll wait.)

What if we really just had “Winter, Spring, Summer, ” etc.? We’re not medieval citizens who can’t count past twelve (that’s why clocks only have 12 numbers instead of 24). We could have festival days between seasons to make 365.24whatever days a year.

In a country where we couldn’t shift into the metric system and instead decided to remain the only country on earth that uses the English Imperial Measurement system based on the size of some random dude’s foot…. you might be thinking, “that will never happen”. But think about it anyway. Maybe if we went far enough, we could even get rid of seasons and weeks, and just have a series of days where we checked in with ourselves and the moon about the right times to work and rest.

Maybe we could do away with years.

Just us and our endless, numbered days, stretching away from us like I-5: seemingly infinite and undifferentiated, but changing, steadily, with geography and time.

This is the Los Angeles of time, I realize, looking at the ordered clatter of London.

There’s some gift in the wide sprawl, in the Great City. A sense of openness and freedom and tracklessness that speaks in an eloquent drawl about the great Expansion of the old West, about possibility.

But this Londinium of time is useful, too. The banker’s measured hours. It gives form and structure to the day, helps us come together. Helps remind us to go home, to meet with friends, to sit quietly and let the world, like the wide Thames, go by, to saunter from the character of neighborhood to neighborhood, marveling how different they are in their similarity.

In December, I’ll be in Bhutan, where they work on auspicious time. They do not answer emails, although they read them. The government opens promptly at 9, which means that by 9.30 almost everyone who works for it is showing up.

I tried a version of that once, for a month. I covered the clock on the oven with tape. I turned off the time display on my cel phone. I set reminders to tell me when to go to the dojo, my only fixed points in the week at that time. The problem was the quotidian raven inside my head, the internalized temporophilia, that counted out the hours. That knew and believed at some deep level the sequence of hours. It didn’t make a difference. Well, there was tape on my oven. And the microwave.

Put tape on your oven. Test out your raven of the hours.

One Comment

  • Phil commented on 2012/12/06

    Lovely!

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