Let This Moment Be The Time to Remember Time
Dave Gordon - Thursday, 15 January, 2009
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weeks into the New (secular) Year, and if the statistics are correct, now is
about the time when so many people’s resolutions begin to taper off, become
neglected, or their motivation fizzles.
around late December or so that people begin to look back and wonder what they
did with their time the past year. We may comment to ourselves how we’re going
to find the time to do what needs to be done in the fresh year, and stop
procrastinating, and use time wisely. Then, in short order, we get back into
our old habits.
So it is with great fascination
that I came across an announcement for the International Year of Astronomy marking the 400th
anniversary of Galileo’s discovery of the Earth circling the Sun. To mark the
occasion, scientists are now building a new telescope, which they hope will
help us see “the dawn of time.”
Billions of dollars will be
invested to see the particles of the first atoms of the first nanosecond of
when time began, but down here on Earth time has no relevance to so many
people. The reality is that it’s only astrophysicists who are interested in
finding time; the rest of us are interested in wasting it.
And time is wasted daily.
Rubbernecking drivers ogle the car accidents on the highway, slowing us all
down to a crawl. Americans on average are watching thirty hours of television
each week, and what do they have to show for it? From the smallest time
wasting, to the biggest, it all adds up to life’s essence squandered.
It is appropriate that a euphemism
for prison is “Doing Time.” The purpose of jail is to rob one of potential
societal productivity, as a means of punishment. And yet, every day, we rob
ourselves of time so casually, depriving ourselves of our own potential.
Minutes turn to hours that turn to days. Imagine what Terri Schiavo would have
done with an extra day of life. To put it in perspective, if 25 minutes a day
was wasted for a year, that is SIX DAYS of time!
What’s worse than wasting our own
time is intentionally wasting another’s. After all, our time is ours to do what
we wish; but, it is unethical to take what isn’t ours. The Bible tells us:
“Thou shalt not steal.” The most basic understanding is not to withhold or take
something that belongs to someone else. Few realize that stealing also refers to
stealing hearts, stealing time, and stealing trust. Leading someone on is
stealing someone’s time.
Dennis Prager frequently tells the
story he heard of a woman in a camera store who spent a half hour with a store
clerk asking him about a certain camera. When she was done, she asked the clerk
where she could find that very camera for cheap on the Internet. She not only
wasted the clerk’s time, but wasted the store’s money – the salary on that
clerk, and the possible sale, of one who could have bought a camera.
I had written previously on the
value of time; the first entry was on what occurred on a television show, A Shot At Love
with Tila Tequila. On this dating “reality” show, a woman wasted Tila’s
time by deceiving her, and leading her on for weeks, making her believe she was
romantically interested. And then she dumped her.
To be sure, our smaller
indiscretions occur with much more frequency.
How about a person who comes to a
meeting unreasonably and needlessly late? They punish those who arrived when
they were supposed to, wasting their time. It’s made even worse when the person
doesn’t call to inform others that they’re expecting to be late.
You can tell a lot about another’s
respect for their fellow, and their integrity, if they knowingly, and
willingly, waste another’s time. They may not realize it, but the attitude of
being cavalier of another’s time reveals sheer narcissism and selfishness. It
indicates that someone else’s time is less valuable. The person who came on
time to a meeting, for example, did so for the courtesy of the other – whereas
the person who was late could not be bothered to show concern for the other.
It often bespeaks poorly of a
person’s character, additionally, when they pretend that they did not
inconvenience anyone by being late, and walk into the room without immediately
offering a sincere apology (or a reason) for their having made people wait for
them. It shows little or no care for another’s discomfort. Indifference, as I
have argued many times, can cause one of the worst kinds of hurt.
There is deceit involved when
knowingly stealing another’s time. The other person has the rightful
expectation that the agreement of when to meet will be fulfilled. Why we often
get frustrated when waiting for someone: because they led us to believe they
would make good on their end of the bargain.
We often consume great effort to
get somewhere on time. We’re battling traffic, dropping other commitments,
scheduling a person in our calendars, and putting everything aside for them.
When such effort is deliberately not reciprocated, perhaps even scorned by
indifference, this is a representation of how little someone else values your
time and resources. (Naturally, there’s a little latitude to be given to people
who on rare occasion come late, or are but a few minutes late.)
We may not think that one or two
minutes lost have any consequence. But that is precisely why so many allow time
to fizzle away. How little care many people have for the relatively
imperceptible minutes that are easily consumed by frivolous activities.
The consequences of lost time are
often only seen after hundreds of small chunks have been misspent, after we’ve
looked back at the week, month or year, in realization that we allowed time to
“get away” from us.
I’m very careful not to allow those
precious minutes to be frittered away.
For example, I have created
something called the Price Check Revolt. It’s the two-minute rule to wait for a
price check to be completed at a supermarket, or the maximum time I will allot
to waiting for a scanning error to be rectified. After two minutes, I will
forego that particular item, no matter how much I may need it, in the interest
of saving my time, and others’ time in line. It serves as a message to the
supermarket that they can expect to lose business if they do not take my time
seriously. I also let everyone else in line know, as a courtesy, how long I am
willing to wait before I forego that item and move on.
Even if I’m open to the idea that
particular day of spending a few minutes extra for my item to be checked, it is
unethical for me to abuse the privilege and so casually use up the time of
others in line. If we are cognizant of how valuable our time is, and how
valuable time is to others, we are less likely to waste time.
Time is our legacy. We can treat
our legacy with nonchalance and disinterest, or endeavour to make ourselves,
and the world, better. If you woke up tomorrow morning and were told you had
one week of time left, what would you do? How would you look at your life
differently, and how might you change things?
The story of Alfred Nobel is a
perfect case in point. The name sounds familiar to most for the awards and
grants given in his memory, the Nobel Prize. Before that, he was famous for
having invented dynamite. A French newspaper in 1888, confusing him for his
brother, mistakenly printed an obituary of Alfred. In it, they condemned him
harshly for his invention, accusing him for being indirectly responsible for
people killing each other with it. Determined to leave a better legacy, it’s been
said that he was inspired after reading his own obit, to create the global
financial awards for achievement, including in the realm of peacemaking, for
which he donated tens of millions of dollars. If there is anything that Nobel
has taught the world, is that there is, indeed, still time to change things in
our lives. Hopefully, some of us don’t require an obit, or a terminal disease,
to learn the lesson.
An obit was printed lately about
Randy Pausch, a Carnegie-Mellon professor, who passed away six months ago of
pancreatic cancer, at age 47. The obit was called, "Prof knew how to make the most of time."
Nine months before his death,
Pausch gave what became known as The Last Lecture, posted on YouTube, viewed by
more than six million people. A few months later, he gave another lecture,
focusing on the importance of taking time seriously. Time, he asserted, was
more important than money, “because if you’ve wasted it, you can never get it
back.” To decrease time waste, he suggested minimizing the time one spends on
the phone, to cut out television, and to keep healthy. He also suggested each
month to look back and see whether any growth changes have taken place. “Time
is all we have,” Pausch said. “And you may find one day that you have less than