On 30th June, just before midnight (GMT) we all get an extra second – this happens every so often because the rotation of the earth doesn’t take exactly 24 hours (just like the orbit of the earth doesn’t take exactly 365 days, requiring us to have leap years to get back in sync). Brilliantly, there is an international body responsible for monitoring the rotation of the earth and deciding when we need a leap second. You can read all about that here.
This means I will have to wait slightly longer for it to be my birthday – but as a bonus, it means I get to spend slightly longer being in my 30s before I become middle aged.
The question I ask myself, though, is what could we do with that extra second? A second is not a long time, but here are some suggestions (you can always do them earlier in the day if you’re planning on being asleep during the extra second):
- Do nothing. Actually nothing – take a conscious, if only tiny, pause, to see what it’s like. If you like it, try a longer one.
- Smell the roses. Or whatever – have some sort of sensory experience of beauty that will last beyond the second it takes to do it.
- Tell someone you love that you love them.
- Kiss someone you love.
- Send up an arrow prayer for world peace.
- Take a photograph of something beautiful, or interesting.
- Smile at someone.
- Think of someone you haven’t seen for a while.
- Switch your computer off.
- Sign a petition.
- Store up your spare second and use it to vote in the next election (yes, I know it takes longer than that to vote, if you take into account the queuing up and travelling to the polling station, but to put the cross in the box does just take one second, and has a lasting impact).
Here are some things that take about a second to do, that the world could do without – they’re the ones that came to the front of my mind first:
- It takes about a second to strike a match. What if people stopped setting fire to predominantly black churches in the USA?
- It takes about a second for a bullet to travel 2500 feet. What if people stopped shooting each other?
- You can insult someone or swear at them, or belittle them with a glance, in under a second. That’s a second that could be better spent.
- And while we’re at it, it probably takes about a second to throw a punch. We could not do that, too.
- Do we ever make judgments about people by the way they look, or dress? That probably takes less than a second. What would happen if we didn’t? Keeping an open mind takes longer.
Reading this through, it’s a load of idealistic sanctimonious rubbish, really, but if having an extra second makes us think about the split second actions (and failures to act) that have a lasting impact, then that’s got to be a good thing. We have the extra seconds every so often (even though they’re a nuisance for certain technological infrastructures) because otherwise future generations would have to make much bigger adjustments. It’s one of the (few) ways in which our current generation is being responsible about the future. Maybe the best use of the extra second is to do something in keeping with that responsibility to the future, that ‘reorientation’ towards the world being at ease with itself.