Children have no sense of time. Like language and money, time is a human-manufactured abstraction that we learn. In the lives of children and the memories of the aged, past, present, and future are all one. Time is water.
The years between childhood and old age are a different story. Time becomes a commodity, metered and measured. Whole industries are built around it. Every year, 1,200,000,000 wrist watches are sold globally. We have software to track time, apps to save time, products to fight time, innovations to ward off time. We speak of never having enough time and wanting to regain time. We experience time as a tangible thing that we can hold in our hands and trade with others. We spend it, buy it, and try to save it like currency.
In the consulting business, clients set urgent deadlines then fail to meet those deadlines themselves. Companies stall for months or years on marketing projects then suddenly MUST get it all done in weeks. Deadlines are abstractions of the abstraction, which is likely why they frequently have no meaning. By simply not responding to calls and emails immediately, I discovered that well over half of all “urgent” requests fizzled out or were changed anyway.
The abstraction of time has governed my personal life and consciousness, too. I’ve rushed through things in a fear of time catching up to me like a beast. I’ve held back from doing things thinking that I don’t have enough time, that it’s “too late”.
A member of my dance community said, in a hopeless voice: “I wish I’d started this dance when I was younger!” She was just 23. Adults in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s have all said the very same words to me. Clearly, time takes no prisoners.
Now, I can’t “un-see” the abstraction.
We all have exactly the same amount of time. In any given moment, we have precisely the same amount of time as everyone else on the planet…
…we have an unknown amount of time.
And that’s the same as having an infinite amount of time, isn’t it?
What time is it?
For one week, wait 12 hours before responding to calls and emails. See what happens.
Think about (or journal) on these topics:
- How many times in a day do you speak about time as a concrete thing?
- What expressions do you use that refer to time as a scarce commodity?
- How many times do you delay or take no action at all because you fear you don’t have the time?
- How often do you rush through a task or experience because you feel time closing in on you?
- Imagine that you have exactly the same amount of time as every other person on the earth. What would you do differently?