“Time lost is time when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment and suffering” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).
IT’S HELPFUL TO THINK OF TIME AS A RESOURCE, ONE OF THE RAW MATERIALS THAT HAVE TO BE USED IN MANUFACTURING A HUMAN LIFE. Most resources in the world are limited, and that is certainly true of time. There is only so much of it (at least in any one person’s life), and when it’s gone, it’s gone. So the old-timers used to talk about “improving” the hours that are given to us, meaning that we need to use our time to good advantage, doing something profitable with the resource rather than letting it be wasted.
Time flies, as the saying goes. One of the best friends I ever had was an old black man with whom I worked on a road construction crew. Reflecting on how quickly his seven children had grown up and left home, Joe would shake his head and say, “Tempus sho’ do fugit.” How right he was. Time passes by relentlessly. Whether we “improve” it or not, it continues its inexorable march. The resource disappears.
These days, time seems in especially short supply. We are very busy, and we live our lives under intense pressure to deal with all the priorities on our ever-lengthening to-do lists. The fact that we’re now able to track those lists with trendy electronic gadgets really doesn’t change the reality of our situation. We are hurried and harried.
The truth is, we now live in an age when there are millions more options for the use of our time than ever before. Our challenge (and we’ll either meet it or self-destruct) is to let go of many things that we could do, many of which would even be good to do. Our survival depends on what we have the courage to say no to — and that, of course, depends on what we have the commitment to say yes to.
Because there’s not enough time to do all we dream of doing right now, it’s tempting to try to find substitutes for it. If our families need our time, for example, it’s tempting to offer money as a substitute. Yet when time is the resource needed, there’s not much else that will do. So the questions stare back at us: Who are we? What can we let go of? To what people and to what good works shall we give our time?
“Time is love, above all else. It is the most precious commodity in the world and should be lavished on those we care most about” (Sydney J. Harris).