Do you think you need more time? Think again.
|IF YOU HAD THE TIME
By George R. LeBlanc ll
If you had an abundance of free time at your disposal to do whatever you desired, what would you do with all that time? We are constantly hearing people say how little time they have to do the things they need to do or want to do. We hear people say they are counting the days to the day they can retire and have that free time to pursue their interest. If you are a parent of young ones, you have, no doubt heard their sorrowful lament that they are bored. It is not that they do not have the time to do whatever they wish, but that they do not know what to do with the time they have. The funny thing is, it is very often the same with those who couldn’t wait to retire. After a few weeks of feverishly checking off projects on the to-do list, they are found wondering what they are going to do with themselves and falling into depression when they begin to wonder what is the point of their now independent existence.
I do believe that the reason those who finally have the free time they have so longed for quickly become bored, and those who don’t have the time wish they did is because they are both looking at time from the perspective of doing – whether it is in the present or future sense. Most people maintain the mindset that if they are using time well or wisely they are physically performing some task within a certain span of time. Such thinking is not new as we shall see.
For a very long time, men have been engaged in the process of defining how time should be put to a most fulsome use. In the thinking of many, the worst thing a person could do was waste time. Anything that did not culminate in a finished product of communal value was a waste of time. Therefore, to stand gazing into space and being lost in some thought was considered an impoverished use of time. Those who engaged in this feckless pastime were scoffed at as foolish dreamers.
As is so very true in our modern society, those who are the busiest and most productive are those who will rise to the heights of success, while their languishing fellows will remain on the bottom rungs of the ladder. In American culture, as in many others, people race through their lives because there are only so many hours in a day, and each one must be squeezed for as much productive nectar as it can give. And, even so, at the end of the day, there remains work to be done, but exhaustion collapses crumpled bodies into unmade beds with ever the thought that weary eyes must again open before the Sun rises.
To be sure, this is an exceedingly difficult way of living one’s life. In such cases, time is a hard and demanding taskmaster. It has broken into life, stealing the joy and freedom of living. But, in the truest reality, time has stolen nothing. It is our skewed view of time which has made us believe that it will steal our freedom. Allow me to refer to a bit of history to give you somewhat of an idea of what I mean. Psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl survived several years in the Nazi concentration camp system, ending up in Auschwitz in 1944. In his book entitled “MANS SEARCH FOR MEANING” published after the war, Frankl explains one important factor – and possibly the most important factor – in determining who lived and who died in the camps. Simply put, if a man lost all hope in the belief that he had any future, he was very often one of those who would succumb to the hellish conditions of camp life. Prisoners who lost all courage, allowing disappointment to overcome them compromised their powers of resistance, and most often died in a short time. Frankl explains that life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answers to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.
In our modern culture, one of the greatest problems faced by the harried tens of thousands who bustle through their hurry-scurry lives is a convinced belief in the constraints they feel. They have been programmed to believe in and have been assimilated into the drone of the daily task. It is here that time comes into play because time is seen as the nemesis to the performance of daily tasks. But time is not the enemy; the tasks are the enemy, but only because of how they are viewed. Tasks are an important part of life. They become the enemy of our time when we forget the why and the worth of doing them. It is a matter of becoming dead to the idea that tasks are a drudgery and alive to the time we are granted to perform them. Remember, die to the mindset of drudgery. We only make the tasks more difficult when we develop a mental state of frustration at having to do them. The fifteenth century Monk Thomas Kempis wrote that a man will inwardly groan when he grows sluggish and develops a disdain for the tasks which lie before him.
And, essential to our consideration of tasks and the time required in performing them, is the understanding that a task may be spiritual as well as physical. To think, to muse, to contemplate, and to reflect are all transformative tasks in which so many have forgotten to engage. Never should such pursuits be considered a squandering of valuable time. Quite to the contrary, those tasks of the mind and spirit are of the most arduous and valuable sort. A spiritual journey may consume more time and effort than a journey across the continents of the earth. And, even though the obvious worth of spiritual tasks can hardly be denied, most people remain boxed within the belief that time must be spent in running hither and thither in the pursuit of a task they are scheduled to perform.
We should understand that things are not always as they seem. In Japan, The fourteenth-century monk Yoshida Kenko had noted – in relation to the Japanize obsession with the cherry blossom season – that blossom viewing need not be thought of as a once-a-year party, but could be instead a year-round state of mind. “Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom, the moon only when it is cloudless?” he wondered. “People commonly regret that the cherry blossoms scatter, or that the moon sinks in the sky, and this is natural; but only an exceptionally insensitive man would say, ‘This branch and that branch have lost their blossoms. There is nothing worth seeing now.’
Whenever we feel that time and tasks have conspired against us we must pause and consider that which we do not see. There is a great deal more to life than meets the eye. The branch without buds is waiting until the time is right to burst forth. Like that branch which contains the intelligence of divine purpose, we too have a purpose in life. Allow time and task to work in harmony. We will soon learn that we don’t need all the time in the world to do what needs to be done. We just need to use responsibly the time we have to fulfill the tasks life has placed in our path.