In our fast-paced world, the pressure of time drives us through each day so that we are unaware that “half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save”1 (Will Rogers).
The New Year is generally the time for many people to pause and reflect on the past and future of their lives. But TIME is a four-letter word that rarely raises an eyebrow even though it fills our lives on a daily basis.
It is probably one of the most used words in the English language yet slips by us because we take it for granted. Since the beginning of time, theologians, philosophers and scientists have struggled with this concept. But few ever take the time to think about it other than through its measurement.
We use it to structure our lives as in daytime, night time, lunch, dinner or bedtime, time to go to work and time to go home.
Clocks can be found everywhere to keep us on schedule and we even wear time to ensure we are always on time. It seems our lives would be chaotic without it. Time is one of the most important gifts of life so why do we not value it more? The many clichés about time in our language only reflect its significance in our lives.
Several years ago, an enterprising entrepreneur and inventor created what was called a Mortality Clock. It was simply a wristwatch that could be set according to actuarial statistics of a life span. Each of us has a personal Mortality Clock that will inevitably end.
The World Health Organization (2016)2 published a list of life expectancies at birth for countries around the world. It states the average life expectancy worldwide was 71.0 years (68 years and 6 months for males and 73 years and 6 months for females) over the period 2010-2013, with women on average living longer than men in all countries, except Tonga.
For the total U.S. population, the average was 79.3 years, with 79.6 for males and 81.6 for females. The factors reflect the quality of healthcare in the countries listed as well as other factors including ongoing wars, obesity and chronic infections.
Imagine time as a deposit made in your bank account at birth. These deposits vary from individual to individual. Some people will, unfortunately, be short-changed to varying degrees while others are given a bonus. For approximately 18 years of our lives, our parents manage our time bank accounts for us because we are still too immature. Time is in a ‘Trust Account.’
In order to grow into healthy, independent adults we need our parents to spend their time on us. They need to make a large deposit from their own accounts. Lay-away plans won’t work. You cannot buy, borrow or bank it. So parents may steal it from their children with a promise to pay it back later.
Paying it Back
But as singer-songwriter Harry Chapin, whose own time on earth was brief, sang in “The Cat’s in the Cradle,” we can never make up time. Without a large parental deposit, our children will have nothing in their parenting time bank inheritance to give when they are grown. Time is a valuable commodity, which moves in only one direction. So the best present a parent can give to a child is the Present. It will eventually become the Past on which the Future is built.
As a society, we also recognize the importance of time as a premise on which our penal system is based. It is used as a powerful punisher for those who transgress our laws. For example, we take out a portion of time allotted in their personal bank accounts, the amount of which will depend on the severity of the offense. Prisoners who do time become keenly aware of the importance of free time.
Similarly, terminal patients who have precious little time, realize its value. They face the harsh reality that time is not endless. Yet the only difference between the terminal patient and those not so designated, is the person knows Father Time is waiting right around the corner.
Sadly, too many people merely waste it, pass it, or kill it? It’s not that we have that much to spare. If time were really money, would you squander it foolishly? A study3 led by Wei-Ching Wang in Taiwan, found that retirees feel planning free time is more important than the amount of free time. He suggests governments and other support services for seniors, introduce educational programs to teach people how to schedule their free time to feel more contentment in their retirement years.
I would add that spending time with family and friends, participating in long-held dreams and creative goals are generally the important values held by many people. It is important to define what matters most to you and develop a strategy to reach those goals.
So when you make your last withdrawal, will you feel bitter regret or satisfied that your legacy of time has been deposited for future generations? You haven’t taken the time to think about it? Don’t you think it’s about time?