Year-End Musings—December, 2014

Sand-timer 2

The Chinese proverb says, “An inch of time is an inch of gold, but an inch of gold cannot buy an inch of time.”

So how valuable is time? And how should we ponder upon time?

We tend to grieve about the loss of time at the end of a year. we glance through the expiring calendar before we throw it away, being reminded of what has happened, and how certain events/plans didn’t materialise. Dismayed by the passing of time and our incapability to create another of the same year, we either try to be oblivious of time or work harder to make more realistic plans. Whichever way, we find ourselves exhausted and still frustrated, in the midst of the journey of time, losing control of the hours…

the Psalmist in the Old Testament made a request to God, “…So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” It seems that when we can sit quietly to contemplate on our lives, and are not distracted by people and events, we’ll become wiser in knowing how to spend our time. But as soon as time is involved, this is a luxury. Surely we all know more or less how much time there is left for us. Which fool thinks he will stay the same forever? Yet few of us really take time seriously and treasure it. In fact often we refuse to be confronted with the truth about time, and many deny the urgency of ‘using time wisely’. While we think scientific developments help us do things faster and make more achievements, the reality is that we are often sucked into too many things at one time because of what advanced technology has accomplished. we find ourselves incompetent in managing our time effectively, though we have all the tools offered by science.

Einstein once said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” That sounds intelligent. Imagine there was no time, how could we make sense of anything? We need to be put in a structure of time consisting of the past, the present and the future; to move along a timeline so that we can review and look forward, learn from the past and hope for a better future. Is this what constitutes humanity? So when we lose a day, we know that particular day now belonged to the past. And as the future arrives, we reckon that it has become the present. But how scaring that time cannot be halted, and that we are just drifted along, helplessly.

The famous soliloquy of Macbeth starts with this: “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day…” Indeed, in our mind there is always tomorrow, and we can rely on tomorrow to right the wrong or  do what’s undone. But even tomorrow will come to an end. This was Macbeth’s greatest realisation as his life was seriously threatened. So the English proverb says, “No time to waste like the present.” When we would act as if there was no tomorrow, perhaps we would not waste one single minute. But it might turn out to be the opposite. Perhaps we wouldn’t care about time anymore.

Of course it depends on what we mean by ‘wasting time’. Its meaning varies with different people. How we spend our time reflects our beliefs, goals, who we are and what we want to make out of our lives. It says a lot about how we define the meaning of life.

Thomas Mann wrote, “Time has no divisions to mark its passage…it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.” Nowadays we have fireworks to mark the end of a year and the beginning of another. As we cheer and shout at the first splashing light in the sky, the minutes and hours coldly shrug off our celebration, continuing to leave us.

Perhaps on this last day of 2014, we should take our time and relax. Time for relaxation is not time wasted. What do you think?

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