THE PAPALAGI HAVE NO TIME
The Papalagi adore the round metal and the heavy paper, it gives them much pleasure to put the juices from dead fruit and the meat from pigs, steers and other terrible animals inside their stomachs. But they also have a passion for something that you cannot grasp but still exists, time. They take it very serious and tell all kinds of foolish things about it. Though there never will be more time between sunrise and sundown, for them this does not suffice.
The Papalagi are never satisfied with their time and they blame the Great Spirit for not giving them more of it. Yes, they slander God and his great wisdom by dividing every new day into a complex pattern, by cutting it up into pieces, the way we cut up the inside of a coconut with our machete. Every part has its name. They are called, seconds, minutes or hours. The second is smaller than the minute and the minute is smaller than the hour. But all of them strung together form one hour. To make up one hour, you need sixty minutes and many, very many seconds.
This is an incredibly confusing story, of which I haven't grasped the fine points myself yet, as it is hard for me to ponder this nonsense longer than necessary. But the Papalagi attach much weight to it. Men, women and even children too small to walk, wear a small, flat, round machine inside their loincloths, tied to a heavy metal chain hanging around the neck, or around the wrist; a machine that tells them the time. Reading it is not an easy thing. It is taught to the children by pressing the machine to their ears, to awaken their curiosity.
Those machines are so light that you can lift them with two fingers and they carry an engine inside their bellies, just like the big ships you all know. There are also big time-machines, standing inside their huts, or hanging from a high house so as to be better visible. Now when part of the time has passed, it is indicated by two small fingers on the face of the machine and at the same time it cries out and a ghost strikes the iron in her insides. When in a European town, a certain part of the time has passed, a frightening clamoring and din breaks out.
When that time noise sounds the Papalagi complain: "Terrible another hour gone!" And then, as a rule, they pull a somber face, like somebody that has to live with a great tragedy. Very puzzling because immediately after, a new hour starts.
I've never been able to understand that, but I think it must be a disease. Complaints that are common with white people are, time vanishes like smoke, or time is running out and give me just a little more time.
I said it is probably some kind of disease; because when the white man feels like doing something, when for instance his heart yearns to go walking in the sun or to go sail a boat on the river, or to make love to his friend, he usually spoils his own fun by being unable to avoid the thought that there is no time for fun. The time is there all right, but he seems unable to find it. He will mention a thousand things that take away his time, grumpy and sputtering he sticks to a job that he doesn't feel like doing, that brings him no pleasure and into which nobody , forced him but he himself. And when he suddenly discovers that he does have time or when others give him time - the Papalagi often give each other time and no gift is more appreciated than that - then he discovers that he doesn't feel like doing it at that particular time, or that he is too tired from his joyless labor. And he is always determined to do those things tomorrow, for which he had no time today.
There are Papalagi who say that they never have time. They walk around stunned as if taken over by an aitu and wherever they show up, they work up disasters, because they have lost their time. Being possessed is a terrible disease that no medicine man can cure and a disease that contaminates many others, rendering them deeply unhappy.
Because the Papalagi are always scared stiff of losing their time, not only the men, but also the women and even the very small kids; they all know exactly how many times the sun and the moon have risen since the day that they saw the big light for the first time. Yes, it plays such an important role in their lives, that they celebrate it at regular intervals, with flowers and feasts. Very often I noticed that people felt they had to feel ashamed about me, because when asked for my age I would start laughing and did not know it. But you have to know your own age. Then I would be silent and think, it's better for me not to know.
How old are you, means, how many moons have you lived? Counting and probing this way is full of dangers, because that way it was discovered how many moons people usually live. Now all those people keep that in mind and when a great many moons have passed they say, "Now I have to die soon!" Then they grow silent and sad and indeed die after a short period.
In Europe there are only a few people that have time really. Perhaps even no one at all. That's why those people run through life like a thrown stone. Almost all of them keep their eyes glued to the ground when they walk and they swing their arms to make better pace. When somebody stops them, they shout angrily, "Why do you stop me, I've no time, better make good use of your own time!" It seems that they think a fast walking man braver than one who walks slowly.
Once I saw a man's head almost explode, saw his eyes roll around and his gullet stretch wide open like a dying fish, becoming red and green in the face and flailing around his hands and feet, just because his servant arrived one breath later than he had promised he would. That breath was supposed to be a considerable loss, that could never be made up again. The servant had to leave the hut, the Papalagi chased him away and called him names. "'Ibis is the limit, because you have stolen much time from me already. A man who doesn't honor time isn't worth that time!"
Another time I saw a Papalagi who had time and never complained about his time, but that man was poor, dirty and despised. People walked around him in a big circle and nobody gave him any attention. I didn't understand that, because his step was slow and steady and his eyes were quiet and friendly. When I asked him how that came about, he hung his head and said sadly: "I've never been able to use my time well, that's why I am a poor and despised clod now". That man had time, but happy he wasn't.
With all their-strength and all their thoughts, the Papalagi try to make time as fat as they can. They use water and fire, storm and lightning from heaven to hold up time.They put iron wheels under their feet and give wings to their words, just to gain time. And what is all that work and trouble good for? What do the Papalagi do with their time? I've never quite found out, though judging from their words and gestures one would think they were personally invited to a big fono by the Great Spirit himself.
I think time slips from their grasps like a snake slipping out of a wet hand, only because they always try to hang on to it. He won't let time come to him, but runs after it with his hands outstretched. He` doesn't afford himself the time to stretch out in the sun. They always want to keep it within arms reach and devote songs to it and stories. But time is a quiet and peace-loving thing, that loves to rest and lie on it's mat undisturbed. The Papalagi have not understood time and therefore they mistreat it with their barbarous practices.
Oh my beloved brothers, we never complained about time, we loved it the way it was, never did we run after it or cut it into slices. Never did it give us worry or grief. If there is one amongst you, who has no time; let him speak up! We have time in abundance, we are always satisfied with the time we have, we don't ask for more time than there is and we always have time enough. We know that we will certainly reach our goals in time and that the Great Spirit will call us when he feels it is our time, even if we don't know the number of moons spent. We must free the duped Papalagi from his delusions and give him back the time. Let us take away their small, round time-machines, smash them and tell them that there is more time between sunrise and sunset than an ordinary man could spend.
6. The Papalagi Have No Time