Wednesday, October 7, 2009

All About The Clocktowers

I'm old enough to remember when Premadasa put in the clock towers in villages and towns all around Sri Lanka. I think it was a good idea but just can't figure out exactly why.

On my most recent sojourn to Serendib I noticed that many of the clock faces, some of whose hands hadn't moved for a good few years, had been replaced by nice blinking and sparkling LED digital displays.

A little google action led me to this article, which explains that it's a joint venture between Dialog Telekom and the government, or something. Why the Telekom is spelled with a K instead of a C is indeed a mystery, one that I hold dodgy Europeans, those types who corrupt the Queen's English, solely responsible for.

After seeing a few of these new digital clocks I realised that they had stirred something within me, it wasn't a simple matter of old and defunct clocks being replaced by new ones. No, these new digital fellows had triggered a deeper message, one that perhaps only was being received by me, maybe because of my feelings about digital time displays compared to analogues.

You see I'm into watches. For many years I've liked them and been a fan. That's not to say that I've got a massive collection of them, that I buy a new one every half hour. No, I just like them, I pay attention to the watch that a person is wearing and I own a few, though none of those really expensive ones.

The difference between analogues and digital is significant. An analogue one (that's one with hands for those that might not know) gives us an overall view and sense of time. A glance at it will give the wearer a feel for how much time has passed and how much is to come. We look at the display and see that it's twenty to nine, thereby telling us that there's a spell of twenty minutes to go until nine o'clock, or that forty minutes have elapsed since eight.

It doesn't give a "reading" of the current time as easily and accurately as a digital watch, which clearly shows the now, the hours, minutes and seconds of the present. A glance at the hands on a watch or clock leaves our brain to do the work, to translate the exact location of the hands into the time. A glance at a digital display only requires us the read the numbers and we have the time. There's a difference, one that I often think about. I'd bet that you don't, you've probably got far better things to ponder on.

But, what struck me about these new digital clocktowers in Sri Lanka, is that they're a metaphor, perhaps a reflection, of the way many people are thinking. Many are set in the now and are focussing on today, on the opportunities and possibilities that peace may bring. It's not that they're forgetting about the past, just that they're, well, putting it in the past. I'll leave it to you to decide if that's a good or sensible thing to do, we all have our opinions on the matter and we won't change them because of someone else trying to persuade us.

Every time I passed through a town and saw one of these clocks proudly displaying the time in its flashing red digital way I thought about the fact that they showed the moment, the moment that existed as I was there. There was no indication of what had gone before and what was to come.

Is that what Sri Lanka has become?

And, if it has, it is good or bad, or both?


ViceUnVersa said...

Deep, very deep.


T said...

All i know is, digital or analogue, the time is _always_ wrong.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

DD - For me at least! GDM2U2

T - It's always the wrong time? Even deeper.

surani said...

By Jove I experienced an epiphany reading that, I did!

sittingnut said...

got bored half way through that crap.
but couldn't resist saying this, how typically out of touch of you to not know why k was used instead of a c .
try to at least buy a clue, bore .