Time is never as important as when you begin to grow older and become aware of its transient nature. Be it because we’re no longer as free of worry as it was perhaps the case when we were younger, or just because a great deal of stuff seems to now pile up in a much shorter span of time, the fact is that, as we get older (and wiser) our perception of time seems to speed up.
Think of any poet that comes to mind that has ever written about time and you’ll soon realize they all speak about its fleeting nature. As the naivete of the earlier years dissipates, our ability to completely forget about time leaves us too; and suddenly, the days dissolve into weeks, months and years seem to fly away, and all we’re left with is the cruel realization of time moving on, undeterred, as we permanently struggle to keep up with it.
Now, we're not trying to bring you down. But the belief that time is running out is so ingrained into our cultural framework that it has become a part of us. That we have come to think of time in such a fashion explains, for example, why time (and not work) has become modern life’s greatest currency and obsession; so much so, that most of us invest a great deal of time and effort into desperately trying to have (or afford) as much of it as we possibly can. This is, for instance, the reason for science's craze about finding a cure to the perishability of our body, as well as a means to extend, possibly forever, our time alive; as is also the reason for the existence of so many coaches and entrepreneurs out there thriving by teaching others how best to ‘manage their time' so they may achieve 'their next-level success’ before it is too late...
The question remains, however: is time really such a given? Physicists seem to imply it is not. And, come to think of it, were it not for our ability to remember what’s happened, would we even be sure that time exists? If time does not exist and there’re really no yesterdays and no tomorrows, then, how to find (and define) life’s meaning? What would we do with our life if time did not exist as we think of it? In sum, are we perhaps using the rhetoric of time and ‘its management’ to avoid speaking about something a little bit spookier that we’re all afraid of, yet barely understand, let alone, dare to discuss?
Collectively Doing Time
In one way or another, we’re all here doing time; and for reasons not entirely clear to the majority of us, we’ve all been placed in this reality to do our thing now, for as long as fate (or what-have-you) may have it. Uncertain about our beginnings –where we all come from– and completely unsure about the destination –where we’re going–, most of us go through life feeling powerless and trapped by the insecurity that the illusion of time as linear and finite creates. But, of course, we don't like to admit to this fear, so we coat it in the language of dreams and desires and projects and endeavors; things that take us to a hypothetical future, so we can feel there’s more of it, somewhere, in store for us.
We are too afraid to ponder for too long into any of those BIG ENIGMAS. Time is allegedly running out, so we 'better not waste it’ thinking about stuff that ‘takes us nowhere.’ We must ‘make the most of our time.’ And that’s where the problems begin, if you ask us. Because our idea of ‘making the most of our time’ or of ‘wasting time’ is a bit askew. We have learnt to conflate the idea of time with the notion of movement and steady (or exponential) progression. And so, we measure time and its progress by how well it moves us from one point to another, from one place to another, one job to another, one partner to another, one stage of life to the next, from beginning to end. Don’t waste too much time worrying about the existential stuff, it takes you nowhere. Don’t let time pass you by, you’ll miss a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Don’t derail the train of your life, time never comes back. We’ve all heard things like that...
Death –‘the end of time’– seems to loom somewhere in our horizon as the implicit limit to this experience we’re having, and since that much seems certain unless science steps up, we go through life fussing over how much we manage to accomplish and achieve with the time we’re given. To distract us from the fear and the pain of knowing we won't last.
Sometimes, the effects of the realization of life as an ephemeral experience are positive, compelling us to take action and live our time more or less in awe of this entire crazy/beautiful experience. Sometimes, however, the opposite happens, and we wound up going through the moves of our own life like cogs in a clockwork machine: as the unlucky victims of the stress and pressure that knowing our time is running out creates. This is how many of us spend our days worrying over one thing or another, over failing to do what we’re supposed to when we’re supposed to do it, or about missing out on certain landmarks and milestones for our age, over being out of sync with the times we’re living, or about wasting our life-time away.
We live life with an eye on the future and another on what has already happened, less we may repeat past wrongs. Yet, our attention is so divided, our heart so split in two, that we forget to pay attention to the only thing that really matters: how we feel about our life, this day, the air we’re breathing, the people we speak to, the food we eat, the thoughts we think, the love we (may not) do or feel, right now.
Time to think about it
Time as we know it is a useful concept, one we have created to organize daily experience in this particular version of the world we all have in mind. We use it to measure the unfoldment of our minutes into days, as well as the unfoldment of those days into our life. It’s an instrument we deploy to structure our thought, give order to the chaos of existence, and make plausible predictions and plans. Yet, time fulfills no purpose whatsoever if after all that reminiscing and future projection, we forget to realize that our only real field of action is here, right this minute, now. This is all the time that really truly matters...
The point of life and of the illusion of time, if you want, is not for us to worry about other sub-illusions (past or future), nor to do life as a mechanical clockwork type of thing: clocking in and out of different events and experiences because it’s the expected thing. The point of life is for us to realize that time itself is a creation of our mind, and that it is precisely this ability to create new things with our minds (such as time) that ultimately gives meaning to the whole thing.
We've said before: life is an opportunity to make conscious decisions so we may find our own version of meaning somewhere along the way. So ask yourself if you’re really searching for your own type of meaning with the things you’re doing and the life you’re pursuing, or if you’re merely following on somebody else’s steps. Should you find yourself being the conscious hero of your own life’s adventure, then you’ll probably have already realized that it doesn’t much matter whether you’re wasting away someone else’s notion of time. But don’t take our word for it. Take the time to think about it and come to a conclusion on your own terms. We’ll leave it at this for now. If there’s one thing we do not want is to waste more of your precious time..