Happy New Year!
Updated: Jan 12, 2018
It’s 2018… already!
Reading an article about trends in graphic design (yes this is the geeky stuff I do in my free time), I was struck by a sentence that read “Virtual Reality is a good way to kill time.” The very common phrase suddenly stood out to me — killing time! So violent! I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to kill spiders and moths. We have a butterfly net in our house we use to capture moths in the summer and send them outside on their merry way.
So this got me wondering about all the different ways we talk about time and what they reveal about our relationship with it. Here’s a non-exhaustive list and a bit of analysis.
Time must be managed. Therefore, it is an unruly, out of control beast that must be tamed and brought under control. Like a poorly-run company, or a rebellious teenager, or huge disorganized project, time itself needs to be mastered, dominated, forced to co-operate, civilized. It must be reined in, and properly trained, so we can make use of it, like a good soldier.
Time is empty, a receptacle with nothing in it. It’s inadequate, insufficient, dull, static, inert. It’s our job to generate some excitement, some activity, some way to energize it, bring it to life and make it interesting.
We often use the word waste when discussing resources. Wasting implies that there is a proper use or inherent value to something, and we are not acknowledging that or treating it properly. When we waste money, we are spending it foolishly, using poor judgement, not seeing it’s value clearly, or applying it as it “should” be applied. Here time is viewed as a resource we possess, in the same way we possess money. We own it. The opposite of wasting time is making good use of your time. Implying once again that it’s ours - to be used wisely or poorly.
This usage is similar to the resource mentality implied in “wasting time”, but here it is even more pronounced. Here the correlation of time and money is explicit. The term “investment” suggests we have a type of wealth that needs to be apportioned into projects that will pay off for us eventually. Investment implies we are hoping to get more than we had originally. If we invest wisely, perhaps we can multiply this resource. No one invests just to keep things the same, we invest with the hope of enhancement. Can we add more time to our lives by investing it properly?
Time has a life! And at times, we must murder it. It’s a separate living and breathing entity, and if it must be killed, it is somehow oppressive or threatening to us. It’s dangerous and needs to be eliminated.
Not Enough Time
Once again time is a resource, but in this instance it is issued by an outside force in a stingy manner. Here there is a scarcity mentality. We need a certain amount, but it is not forthcoming. Like rationed food, we must learn to live with less than we would like. In this model we are chronically deprived, and there is an unfairness to it, a poverty. Our good intentions establish a certain amount of tasks to be done in a given day, but the limited number of hours in the day constantly frustrate and foil our plans. Here time is the withholding parent, the stingy lover, the Soviet-Era bread line. Here we are victims of time’s stinginess.
Where Did the Time Go?
Here time is a fleeting trickster. Like a fickle sprite, it dances into our lives and out of it again, confusing and deluding us. It was here, like a presence in the room, and now it’s gone. It has abandoned us, it’s unreliable. We expected it to stick around, but it did not. Once again, we are victims, having made incorrect assumptions about its reliability.
Is time an unruly teenager, an empty receptacle, a resource we own, a life force, a dangerous enemy, a withholding scarcity, a fleeting trickster?
. . . .
Perhaps time is simply something to notice. The clock ticks on and on regardless of whether we are happy or sad, old or young, anxious or at peace. It has an amazing objectivity that is neither good to us, nor cruel. It is not something we possess, nor something that tortures or deprives us.
Time is an invitation to be aware of the moment. It is simply just happening, with or without us. Our lives unfold in time as a series of moments that we tend to judge or evaluate as good or bad, exciting or boring, stressful or delightful, productive or unproductive. But time doesn’t really care what you do with it, or how you feel about it. It’s extremely neutral. If you “wasted” the last three hours, or if you crossed everything off your to-do list, or you had a wonderful time with friends, this moment right now is happening as a clean slate, which you can choose to pay attention to, or ignore.
I find the neutrality of time something to relax into. Regardless of whether you feel 2017 was a “good” or “bad” year, or how you’re feeling about the start of 2018, the seconds and hours and days continue to pass, and each moment invites us to notice. We can panic about the finite nature of our lives, deny the passage of time, savor it, or wish away the hours, but it still goes on. The clock’s ticking is an invitation to notice what is around us, the sights, sounds, colors, smells, textures, feelings, faces, in this exact moment. Recognizing its objectivity, and its universality, puts us in the position of observing rather than controlling or hiding. This is another way of talking about mindfulness, creating a fullness in the mind of this exact moment.
Wishing you a peaceful relationship with time in 2018!