Fort Frederik, Frederiksted, St. Croix, Virgin Islands (2021)
The first thing that the mindful city dweller notice when traveling to a small town is how slow time passes. Take Frederiksted, when no cruise ships are parked at the pier. It’s noon time and yet the plaza clock shows 5:15. Is it 5:15am or 5:15pm? Who cares what time is it in Frederiksted? The sun warms up the skin, gently. The seagulls do their seagull things. A few snorkels are seen poking out the Caribbean Sea. Fort Frederiksted continues to crumble imperceptibly, before our own eyes. A few boats float dormant on the tranquil sea waves. Some people take the siesta in public benches. It appears as if the minutes stretch beyond the imaginable and time becomes dense, material, almost as if we can touch it. That is how our grand-grandfathers use to experience time, isn’t it? And wasn’t that the way meant to be?
Technology, God bless its heart, has this deleterious, pretty significant side-effect: it accelerates time to the point of anxiety. A life devoid of technology might seem boring and unappetizing to the technology-savvy city dweller. We just love our phones way too much. And not only our phones: we love all other devices (as long as they are the latest gadgets),our electric cars and our Netflix, our TV screens, our Internet and our headphones and microphones. Younger folks may even think that is all there is to life. Weren’t they born amidst the technology boom of the 21st century? They don’t really know any better, indeed. And yet, technology is the greatest devourer of time. There never seem to be enough time when we are engaged in technology. It is a lost race, right from the start.
A contemplative life, closer to nature and other fellow humans, might just be the cure to our daily anxieties. Perhaps we should slow down time by breaking away, if only brief from technology and this stupid race for money and status. Take life in Frederiksted, for example, any day when there are no tourists around. Time has stopped there and became a real thing. But you don’t even have to visit Frederiksted. A little bit of silence is all it takes to recharge oneself *