Time and the Machine by Aldous Huxley

Huxley’s intention in his work is to analyze the psychological and social fallouts of an increasingly industrialized world. He does this by citing examples from history and also comparing the contemporary situation in the Western world to that in countries like India to make his point.‘Time is our tyrant’, Huxley says in his essay and by this he means that time has come to rule our everyday life. Each of our actions is governed by schedules, appointments, timetables and so on. And this causes us to worry about the passage of time a lot more than is warranted. Huxley puts it in his essay:There are trains to be caught, clocks to be punched, tasks to be done in specified periods, records to be broken by fractions of a second. machines that set the pace and have to be kept up with. Our consciousness of the smallest units of time is now acute.It is not as if time itself is a ‘recent invention’ as the writer declares, but the preoccupation with even the smallest periods of time is something that has happened in the modern era. This observation made in the 1930s is somewhat true even today. For those employed in the corporate world, life can become a flurry of flight schedules and meetings. For students too, assignment deadlines can become a source of nightmares. For businesses, sportspersons, artists, nearly every profession one turns to, keeping up with the changing times or even just measuring the littlest stretches of time has come to be crucial.Huxley argues that in countries like India, the people still remember the ‘fine art of doing nothing.’ While this may have been true while these countries were still under colonial rule, it is no longer the case. Asians, especially South-East Asian economies have caught up with the rest of the world and are even leading in some cases. With this economic progress, however, these nations are facing the same psycho-social crisis that Huxley observes in the United States and the United Kingdom in his time.Huxley notices a ‘paradox’ in this way of living: namely, the sever awareness of little periods of time but almost a blind disregard of larger time-scales like the duration of a day, the changing of seasons. in short, the passage of natural time. Huxley attributes this to the increased urbanization of the world which with its ‘artificial universe’ of skyscrapers and concrete jungles, has made it impossible for the common person to even be able to see the sky and the natural world around them, much less actually calculate time by it.Huxley seems to be lamenting the age of industrialization and mourning the age of ‘hand-work.’ Even if we agree with his assessment of our increased preoccupation with time at its minutest, we cannot realistically hope that the clock can be turned back. The advances made by increased mechanization have also created many benefits and allowed previously excluded countries and peoples to join in the movement towards an easier world. However, it is a timely warning and something that we would do well to keep in mind. Even with our machines and our seconds ticking by, we can surely make time to appreciate the grandeur of the natural world which has made this one possible in the first place? Rather than getting too nostalgic about the past, a more practicable solution would be to reach a balance in the present where the onward march of time can be slowed down, if not stopped, by timely pauses to look up at the sky.