The Dictatorship of Diaries

Diaries take time, lay it out in a long line and chop it into little bits. They all do. In more or less sophisticated, clever, beautiful or techie ways perhaps, but essentially it is the same idea.

As if time is a piece of string.

This is not how I experience time. For me time has depth and layers and fuzzy endings and beginnings and intensity and quality and colour. More like a river than a piece of string.

I am not alone in this. Stewart Brand wrote about ‘Pace Layers’ in a wonderful chapter of his book ‘The Clock of the Long Now’. The Greeks distinguished between ‘chronos’ (quantative or clock time) and ‘kairos’ (qualitiative, propitious moments).

So the tools we have don’t work for me. Cutting time into pre-determined chunks that dictate what I should do based on some prior decision… What if I don’t feel like it? What if I am not in the mood? What if the activity I need to spend time on is a slow, long, rumbling, ruminative one that won’t fit neatly into a box? There are a thousand ways that the dictates of a diary don’t work or don’t help.

So, tool makers of the world, here’s a challenge. Can we design a diary, electronic or otherwise, that acknowledges the rich, complex, layered nature of time and helps us use it in a wiser, gentler, more creative way?