The unbearable lightness of time

Sustainability does not only concern economic or environmental issues but also our daily lives

The unbearable lightness of time

My high school thesis was devoted to the issue of Time: I included an image of the melting watches by Salvador Dalì (“The persistence of memory”) on the cover, and I revisited the works by Italo Svevo, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Nietzsche, Horace and Seneca.

If I had to re-write it today, I would start from a different but still liquid image, that of the many digital watches that accompany us everywhere and anytime, and which, no matter whether they are worn on the wrist or stored inside the pocket, the bag or placed on top of our desk or bedside table, they remind us of the time flow, appointments, temperature or a friend expecting an answer from us on some matter – more or less important. I would also quote: Zygmunt Bauman, Dave Eggers, Paolo Sorrentino, Lewis Carrol, Marina Abramović, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

Once upon a time there was spare time
In the long read published by “The Guardian” and reproduced by Internazionale in the first May 2017 issue, Oliver Burkerman explains how all the efforts we make to better organize our time and be more efficient are counter-productive, and make us feel simply busier and more stressed. «One of the most deceitful hidden danger of the time approach based on efficiency is that we feel obliged to use even our spare time in a productive way, as if enjoying free time for the sake of it were not adequate. Thus, we find ourselves travelling to unknown places not for the mere pleasure of travelling but to enrich our mental archive of experiences or our Instagram account».

Sustainability in every-day life
Judging from this perspective, the concept of sustainability traditionally connected to economic, environmental and social issues becomes far more complex: it concerns people’s every-day life, how we manage our time, how we build relationships and how we deal with feelings. While before –as the writer Federico Baccomo rightly observed – we used to experience less emotions in a broader time span, today we experience many more emotions in a much shorter period of time, like any moment we read a message on WhatsApp or a tweet.

Non-stop working
Burkerman highlights that we are often too sure that in the future we will have everything under control, while the truth is that the working context is becoming progressively limitless. In an article titled “The psychological importance of wasting time”, published by “Quartz”, Michael Guttridge, a psychologist specialised on behaviours at work, states exactly this: “We live holding the idea that we have to be permanently online and work non-stop. It is becoming more difficult to take a break and go to the park. However, the downsides are evident: we end up sitting in front of the computer with the head somewhere else, fiddling about with the social media and being persuaded that we are multi-tasking while we are simply using more time than what needed to do most of our tasks”.

Today, living in a sustainable manner means setting limits for ourselves first, possibly trying to let the time flow slowly and putting aside our melting watches.

(Translated by Cecilia Braghin)


Serena Scarpello

Serena Scarpello Direttrice Responsabile del magazine di cultura del lavoro LINC per il Gruppo Manpower, responsabile dei progetti editoriali nel gruppo di comunicazione HAVAS PR. È stata conduttrice televisiva per il canale finanziario di SKY Class CNBC. Si è laureata presso l’Università LUISS Guido Carli in Relazioni Internazionali e specializzata in Comunicazione Economica, Politica e Istituzionale. Ha studiato a Madrid e a Bruxelles. Giornalista professionista e docente di brand journalism, nel tempo libero organizza presentazioni letterarie. Nel 2017 ha pubblicato il libro d’inchiesta "Comunicare meno, Comunicare meglio” (Ed. Guerini).

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