Time. It is life’s sovereign resource.
Time is the great equalizer. It beats at the same pace for each of us, and over it we have no control. We’re not allowed to have a conversation with time—it doesn’t alter its course or negotiate terms. We can’t exchange it, sell it, or collect it. It is depleting whether we like it or not. Time is immovable, absolute, and without bias.
We can try to extend our time allotment, but that’s really all speculative. While some people receive more time than others, the beating drum is wholly impartial. Time knows no race, religion, sex, or creed. It’s seemingly outside of us, yet thoroughly dictates us from within. Our very bodies submit to it and change as time commands. The universe spins and dances to its ticking melody. We measure time, assign units in an attempt to capture it, and pay homage to the trails that time leaves behind. Time generates past and future simultaneously, creating human history, intimate memories, and allotting our very existence. Finally, for each of us the drum will beat its last whenever it requires, and we cease. Time is the game clock, and there are no timeouts.
For something as fundamental as time, we don’t like to pay much attention to it.
Often we regret our inescapable relationship with time. When a newborn joins humanity, we gather, and marvel at the full measure of time and unlimited possibility before this human being. Our subconscious recognizes, “I had that once.” This is usually followed by a momentary mourning that sweeps over, perhaps subconsciously, as the brain considers how we’ve used our time quota thus far. We inevitably wonder how much more of it we have left. The pragmatist may turn to mathematics to calculate theoretical percentages, “It’s okay, I have 40% more time left on average.” Then we quickly execute that hard-wired tactic to dismiss and repress the subject. After all, the utter finality of time can be overwhelming.
When we sit in the presence of one whose time quota is expiring, we admire in a different way. “That person has experienced so much… They must be rich with knowledge. I should learn all of the important lessons they know so that I can improve the rest of my time.” After all, the senior citizen must know more stuff, right? Perhaps more of the stuff that really matters? Time has been the perennial tutor. While we can’t measure the quality of one’s time investment, we’re sure that the aged have faced more than we have, and that counts for something.
It’s often in those moments with the newborn or the elderly that this thought dawns on me, “Money doesn’t really matter to this person.” It’s sort of a soothing and inspiring thought to consider, because after all money—not time—seems to set the standard for society. We observe this pattern throughout history: Obtain resources, gain power, and enjoy options. Granted, the formula does “work” from a cause-and-effect standpoint. If you increase in commodity wealth, you can obtain more objects, and you have a wider net of options and alternatives from which to choose. These are the basic economics of civilization. Centuries of this pattern, and we’ve become programmed to believe that income equals wealth, worth, and perhaps even satisfaction.
Then, in the greatest twist of destructive irony, this adage was manufactured, “Time is money.” Time is money?! Consider the wretched fallacy of those three words. Time is a universal and intangible force that we are fully subjected to and over which we have no control; while money is an invented asset which societies have assigned value to and control over.
Time is not money. Even though the very act of time management is called, “spending time.” Somewhere along the line—between caveman and explorer—we decided that making money is the best use of our time. Now we’re miserable. Depressed. Anxious.