I had to look at the date on my calendar just now to be sure.
Yesterday a friend told me she had begun training for a half marathon in April. She said she had completed the first week and now had 11 more to go. My first thought was, wow I have friends with much greater ambitions than I do. But my second was holy cow! April is only 11 weeks away? It seems like yesterday that I was lamenting about how quickly summer passed.
When I was a kid like most people, time seemed to pass so slowly. And yes, I remember that everyone said it would speed up as I got older. But I realize now that even my kids think time passes so quickly these days. They too never seem to have enough.
Time hasn’t changed, but we have. We are all so ridiculously over booked, over invested, overstimulated. And most of all we are deprived of being underdeprived. Yes I just made that up.
Time used to drag on because we had to wait for things. We didn’t fill our summers as children with 12 weeks of camp in a 10 week summer. We had to wait for someone to communicate with us, visit with us, take us somewhere. We sometimes didn’t have anything to do except watch bad television on TV or go ride our bike some place. And in the long stretches of nothingness (deprivation) we got bored. And boredom made our time drag on.
Fast forward to today. Who has time to get bored? We don’t have time to finish projects because we are already on to three others. If we want to communicate with someone across the globe, we can send an email or text and expect a response back within hours if not immediately. If we can’t visit someone we can see them in face to face interaction over the internet. And while these are wonderful innovations that enrich our lives in so many ways, they do so at a price. The price of gratification is to some extent deprivation. We are deprived of our boredom. We are deprived of the ability to see time passing slowly enough to recognize its passing.
It brings up a paradox that eastern philosophers have already understood. The further you try to move from something the closer you get to it. Avoiding deprivation causes deprivation. Whenever we are trying vehemently to avoid something it means we are remained focused on the something, and therefore it is impossible to get free of it. If I want to avoid my aunt Gladys then I have to always know where my aunt Gladys is and what she is doing so I know not to be anywhere she is. This means that while I think I’m successful at avoiding running into her at the grocery store, I’m in a constant conversation with the version of her I’ve created in my head.
So to avoid losing or wasting time, we schedule everything. We make the “most” of our time by multi-tasking. Given the results, I’d have to defer to Dr. Phil on this one and say “how’s that working for ya?” As for me, not very well, given my surprise reaction to my friends declaration yesterday.
So what would it be like instead of thinking about what we have to get done, should get done, to instead fill our calendars based on what would add the most to me by doing? What would it be like to set our priorities in terms of is this an activity that is good for me, bad for me or neutral? And what would it mean to schedule in some “Nothing” every day.
I can hear you now. “Yea right! schedule some nothingness. Lets see you try that!” I am not suggesting that you block out a day, an afternoon or even an hour. It is really meant as a rhetorical question to think about when we are overscheduling to “save” time. I am not suggesting that we go back to the days without technology, only that we stay conscious of how silly our notation of “look, we are succeeding at eradicating something” is. Time doesn’t get preserved because we use it efficiently. Time doesn’t get preserved PERIOD. You haven’t succeeded at getting more time just because you do two things at once. You’ve made time seem more fleeting because you were so busy. Hopefully staying mindful of this promotes an opportunity to use a different criteria for deciding how to spend this precious commodity.