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Can we talk about time?

January 11, 2015

I subscribe to Brain Pickings weekly newsletter. Through it I consistently find my way to an article or quote or book that gets me thinking and I highly recommend it to everyone. This week, today, it is this:

Seneca writes:

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.

To those who so squander their time, he offers an unambiguous admonition:

You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply — though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire… How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!

The cure he prescribes is rather simple, yet far from easy to enact:

Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.

What is a waste of time? Reading? Writing? Ostensibly, writing is permanent, unless notebooks are burned and computers wiped clean, right? Is taking time to consider and digest philosophical ideas a waste because it only exists in the mind of the thinker?

Obviously, playing with Eli is time well spent because he is the future. Right? (per Seneca anyway.) And wouldn’t doing the laundry be time wasted, as if you die tomorrow you won’t need those extra pairs of clean underwear?

At first I thought, maybe, that I agreed with him. Now I’m not so sure. I believe my thoughts exist somewhere in the middle. No future good comes directly from a thousandth or so reading of Bridget Jones Diary, but it’s entertaining and that mindless release is important, too, no? It allows me to be more present later, in other more involved tasks. Rest is important, Savasana is imperative. Was it Jon Kabat-Zinn who said, “Don’t just do something, sit there”? In my mind it was, but google says it was Sylvia Boorstein (who has randomly come up twice this week). So then, what is time wasted?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. David Ford permalink
    January 11, 2015 1:34 pm

    Thanks. That’s all I can say right now.

    Love, dad ford

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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