Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Secret Pulse of Time by Stefan Klein

Now or never! You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.

— Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 1859

The Secret Pulse of Time
Making Sense of Life's Scarcest Commodity
by Stefan Klein

Reviewed by Michael Pastore

Why are we always in a hurry, ceaselessly suffering from self-made stress, and constantly whining that we need more Time?

Henry David Thoreau examined his brute neighbors and pondered these questions. Thoreau found answers — and renewal — in contact with Nature, in reading classic books, in walking, and by simplifying every aspect of his life.

Almost fifty years after Thoreau, the novelist Arnold Bennett wrote a minor classic on the subject: How to Live on 24 Hours A Day. Since then, the social, psychological and existential causes of our chaotic lives have been insightfully analyzed by authors and psychologists including Nikos Kazantzakis, Colin Wilson, O. Thoreau, Erich Fromm, Aldous Huxley, and Hermann Hesse.

While most modern books on the subject (of time and life management) lack substance and style, there is one brilliant exception, by the German science journalist Stefan Klein. The Secret Pulse of Time tackles the problem from a scientific perspective. The result is a book that is entertaining, thought-provoking, and filled with sensible advice. Klein is the author of the much praised The Science of Happiness; and All a Matter of Chance (not yet translated from German to English).

The Secret Pulse begins by distinguishing between clock-time — the time of calendars, schedules, and deadlines — and inner time, the natural rhythms and inclinations of the body, brain, and mind. The questions he explores are fundamental: How long does one hour last? ... Why are there morning people and night people? ... Why does time seem to race or crawl? ... How long does the present last? ... Why does life seem to speed up as we grow older? ... Why is it so difficult to stay focused on our important tasks?

So many anecdotes, so little time ... One of my favorites bits in the book is the story of Linnaeus's flower clock. Klein writes:

"Carolus Linnaeus ... set out to plant a flower clock in his garden. By arranging a circular formation of selected species of twelve flowering plants that opened and closed at different times, his "clock" told the time accurately to within a half hour."

An Epilogue — A New Culture of Time: Six Steps to a More Relaxed Life — epitomizes the book's theory into an action plan of six practical steps.

Do not be discouraged by this book's number of pages: almost 20% of the work is notes, bibliography, and index. Making time to read The Secret Pulse of Time is a superb investment. By following this book's advice you might find more time in your life, and more life in your time.