i started working on this global time system in a previous millennium, about 20 years ago, back in the mid 90ʻs of pre-WTO seattle. i was a hipster slactivist, a two-time college drop-out, cycling my custom japanese touring bike across the sizzling wet back-streets of rainy Seattle, that damp port city on the North East shores of the Pacific Ocean, 1,000 miles away from anywhere.
Life was cheap back then, so we all had lots of time on our hands, and i spent a lot of it hanging out with the most famazing people, writing ascii poetry, designing & installing temperate rain-forest gardens, plastering agit-prop graphics across the city-scape, building, moving and rebuilding pirate radio stations, playing music, collaging audio, making love to your ears on the microphone, and contemplating the coming of the year 2000… remember y2k? ooooh, scary! those were heady times, and time was in the air.
some friends of mine who thought they were merely opening an internet cafe, had just hit it rich – the dot-com bubble was blowing up as fast as you could say “broadband” and they had just gone national, selling you the DSL (LSD spelled backwards!) highspeed modem suddenly everyone had to have. watching this explosion of connectivity, and the world wide web going global in realtime, it set me to thinking about time, and that maybe time itself was in need of an serious upgrade.
i had long been challenged with punctuality – it was simply excruciatingly difficult for me to show up places on time. “jonathan-jay-ster, the hour-and-a-half-late-ster” my friend Tom Brown laughingly said to me one day. it was pretty funny, off the cuff, but honestly – it cut deep, because it was true. maybe i was just “pro” crastinating – a professional crastinator – but in an honest effort to get a handle on that, i thought if i could just figure out how time had come to be, how it worked, what the history & development of it was, across cultures and through the ages, perhaps – just maybe – i just might be able be on time. little did i know i would soon be in it.
well, to make a long story short(ish), i spent a couple years researching in the university of washington library system the massive and sprawling history of time. iʻll skip most of the details here – and there are a staggering amount – but to get to the heart of the matter, i wound up developing the basics of what i am finally presenting here: a global, decimal single-time-zone system running as a counter-balance to GMT & UTC.
In my research, i had discovered that the ancient babylonians had a base-60 math, called sexigesimal (cool name!) and so that it was natural for them to divide and subdivide by 60 – hence minutes and seconds. that the ancient chinese had a base-ten time system, with 100 ʻkeʻ per day. i discovered that the ancient egyptians had a base-ten system of day reckoning the ancient greeks called ʻdecansʻ – 3 per month, and 36 each year, with 5 extra days thrown in to round out the year. i discovered the revolutionary republican french radical mathematicians Joseph Lagrange, and Henri Laplace had developed not only the metric system of weights and measures, but also an entire calendar and time reform based on the same base-ten system, with 10-day weeks, 10 hours per day, made up of 100 minutes and 100 seconds each. That revolution in time fell flat on itʻs face when the Bourgeois French Mercantilists tried to stiff the working class with only have 1 day off in ten. Jeeze, they could have offered 2! Napoleon fixed that.
i discovered English astronomer William Herschel, discoverer of Uranus, had a son John Herschel who was also an astronomer. In the mid 1800ʻs John also developed a base-ten time system, that began and ended each day at noon GMT (so he could have a single calendar date of observations for each night) as a decimal fraction extension of the Julian Day system of astronomical reckoning. all this stuff was like a crazy secret history of time – that somehow time forgot!
i also discovered nobody really cared much about decimal or ʻmetricʻ time, except for a bunch of metric time geeks on the internet… and nobody else seemed to see the need or value for a globaltime system beyond GMT/UTC. Sure, they were kinda 19th century creations (and actually just local London time re-heated and served up with a fancy new name), but even though the sun had set on the British Empire, they had kept their clocks well-oiled, so their clocks kept ticking.
Then in October of ʻ98, SWATCH released their beat. Nicholas Negriponte, one of the early digital patron saints of WIRED at MIT, gushed about what geniuses they were over in Biel Switzerland. I was like… crushed. All my efforts seemed to be of naught, but they say time heals all wounds. SWATCH was not really interested in the creation of an authentic time tool, they were content with a mere time toy. All they really cared about was to sell more plastic watches. So when their half-clever decimal marketing scheme fissled, they dropped their beat like a hot potato. But I didnʻt care so much, anymore. Life was moving on.
Before I had completely set my decimal time efforts to bed, my interest in coordinating global anti-(corporate) globalization efforts with tactical and indymedia hooked me up with Geert Lovink, director of the Institute of Network Cultures, a super smart net theorist, activist and net critic, and Professor of New Media at the University of Amsterdam. Woo! did I mention he was smart? And a hellava nice guy to boot. We had long and rich discussions about the evolution of time in the new millennium, and collaborated together to write an essay in Dark Fibre about my and othersʻ efforts to push new models of time forward. It was gratifying that somebody finally understood and saw the merits of my labors, but we each agreed that a critical mass of users was still absent. A beautiful language of time, but no peeps to talk to! And so it remained an intellectual curiosity. I packed up my notebooks and moved outa town.
Twelve years ago I landed in Kaua`i, Hawai`i, and learned to love the rain again. Sure, it rains a ton here too, but unlike Seattle, here the rains are warm. Since moving here, I began learning more about renewal and revival of the Hawaiian culture, their philosophical world view, values and language. Ho! Amazingly poetic, wise, graceful, subtle, and shockingly attentive to the natural universe! Distinct from alienating notions of ʻThe Westʻ I am now coming to better understand we are not separate observers of, but actual living aspects of the greater whole.
In the last year, perhaps you have heard in the news about a growing cultural and environmental push-back, begining to better defend the mountain from the decades long drum-beat of scientific industrialization of the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai`i. Over the last 40 years, the University and the State of Hawai`i have repeatedly allowed institutions from all over the world to spend billions of dollars building some of the most massive astronomical observatories on the planet… all for just $1 dollar a year lease back to the people. Wow! Astronomically cheap!
For more than 1,000 years after the Polynesians arrived in Hawai`i, the summit of Mauna Kea was considered a place so sacred, rarified and fragile that the they refused to allow itʻs austere perfection be sullied by man-made disturbance. The summit is an incredible -almost Martian – ecosystem, floating above 40% of our atmosphere, with uniquely evolved communities of life found no where else on earth. Today, there are more than a dozen different observation facilities – several of them defunct, unused and shuttered, but still taking up space on the mountain – and parking lots, and research scientists, and occasionally overflowing dumpsters… it had also become one of the most intensively industrialized parts of the planet – a kind of international astronomical super-mall, and now with the TMT – Thirty Meter Telescope they want to build an uber-WalMart Eighteen stories tall! On the summit of a volcano! A literal sky-scraper!
Mauna Kea is a place of severe and staggeringly monumental natural beauty, and has long been revered as a living ancestor of the Hawaiian people. It was here on this summit that was the point of contact between the heavens and the earth in the Kumu Lipo (a Hawaiian creation saga handed down verbally from generation to generation for more than 1,000 years). The waters that this mountain pulled down from the sky are what has sustained life on Hawai`i for a million years. I was fortunate enough to go visit the Ku kiaʻi Mauna (those who stand up to protect the mountain), to speak with them, as well as several astronomers who would love to see built the TMT (Thirty Meter Telescope) on the summit of Mauna Kea.
Yes, the summit of this mountain is likely the most phenomenal place on the planet to build a monster telescope, which is why the largest telescopes in the world are already there, but what about the mountain itself, and the people who have been here for more than 1,000 years? Would you want a temple to science built on your sacred mountain?
It is easy to see how the mountain benefits the telescope – the telescope needs the mountain to be under it – no mountain, not telescope. but how does the telescope benefit the mountain? The mountain does not need the telescope to be a mountain. Ironically, the international astronomical community is somehow blind to this and several other simple facts.
With ʻThe Westʻ – and especially in America, bigger is always better, and twelve telescopes is never enough, if there is a bigger better one on the drawing board.
Canʻt both science and the sacred co-exist on the summit?” “Canʻt we just compromise?” “Isnʻt there some balance that can be struck?” meaning: canʻt we just keep doing exactly what we want?
Sure! Donʻt be in such a mad rush for your sexy new gargantuan mega-scope – that will be defunct in 30 years – that you are willing to bulldoze life here on Earth so you can scour the heavens for life on other planets. Take care this one here! Life right here matters more. Wrap your head around that balance. The one thing that really struck me from the people defending the sacredness of the summit from further industrial despoilment was this simple statement: “Donʻt ask how you can change the mountain. Ask how the mountain can change you.” That really rung deeply with me. It still does. Itʻs a big mountain.
Imagine my surprise when, in studying Hawaiian moon calendars I came across the term anahulu a term for a period of time equal to sometimes nine, but mostly ten days, depending on the phase of the moon. There it was again! A decimal time duration.
And so once again, I pulled out my old papers and notebooks, began to reflect on my previous time efforts. Perhaps enough folks had begun to bump up against the limits of zonal time when trying to collaborate with others across the world. Perhaps enough people were now linked and networked via their smartphones – were actually experiencing the utter ineplicable-ness of talking to someone else in another ʻtime zoneʻ, but in the same moment of time – the same shared ʻnow.ʻ Perhaps This time, I would just meditate on time, just bring my attention to it, my breath in and out, to focus on the frequency and the duration.
And now this is the result of my decades of decimal dreamings. A synthesis of much of my life experiences over the last twenty years, from childhood tardiness, to the exploding global communications network, to the summit of the tallest pinnacle on the planet.
As Ram Das famously said, “be here now.” With Mauna Kea Time, I invite you to experience now, everywhere. MKT is not just some local time on some mountain somewhere in the middle of the Pacific, it is the leading edge of time – the first point of the new day. it tells you what percentage of the world is already in tomorrow. Iʻll wager you have some friends around the world youʻd love to better connect with, and at some spiritual philosophical level, I feel my efforts will help you do just that. Free you up. Help you evolute your thinking. See the world in a new way – as a part of it that can see touch taste and feel the feeling of being in and of it. Wow!
And now, is really when we all need to hook up, come together, turn back and rediscover ancient wisdoms, not to retreat from the present, but bring forth these myriad enduring wisdoms back into the world today. so we can begin to spin the world in a different direction – counter-clockwize – away from needless conflict and destruction. There is so much healing to do!
And so aloha to you my friend. I am so glad to finally meet you. Old friends are good to find! When I was a kid, my Nana taught me this song – “If I was the king of the world, Iʻll tell you what I do, Iʻd throw away the cars and the bars and the wars, and make sweet love to you.” Well guess what, we all are! And hereʻs another – You say you wanna revolution, well you know, only love gonna save us now… Lucky for us, love comes in infinite supply.
Mauna Kea Time – itʻs time to get busy!
Itʻs time for hourevolution!
jonathan jay, Kaua`i, January 0, 201