Life is Terribly Time Consuming

A few years ago, the Government of Ecuador embarked on a punctuality campaign. The theory was that if all citizens were on time for work, the country would save $2.5 billion annually. The nation’s only Olympic gold medalist, race walker Jefferson Prez, was enlisted to head the campaign to combat Ecuador’s chronic lateness. Even President Lucio Gutirrez, infamously unpunctual, vowed to participate. Unfortunately, his spokesman, going on TV to announce this vow, arrived at the studio several minutes late.

The campaign seemed doomed from the start.

Actor Peter O’Toole, on the other hand, is obsessed with being on time. He was once once asked why he was wearing two watches at the same time, as he often did. "Life is too short to risk wasting precious seconds glancing at the wrong wrist," he said. When we are obsessed by time clocks and watches can be dictators. Hurry destroys souls. As Carl Jung wrote: "Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil."

We hardly ever take time to wonder. And without wonder, life is merely existence.

In his book The Discovery of the Amazon, explorer John Adams told of forcing his indigenous porters to double their walking pace to reach the source of a river before the coming rains made progress impossible. One morning he found that the porters squatting outside his tent, unwilling to continue the journey that day. "We have been moving too fast," they explained. "We must now wait for our souls to catch up with our bodies."

A friend, who has just experienced the death of a loved one, wrote this week: "Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experiences to savour, not to endure." She said since the death of her friend, she was "reading more and dusting the house less." "I’m spending more time with family and friends and less at work," she said. "I’m not saving my good perfume for special parties, but wearing it for clerks in the hardware store and tellers at the bank. I’m learning to cherish the moments in my life that are not perfect. I want to see, hear and feel my life to the fullest right now. Every morning when I open my eyes, tell myself that it is special because every day, every minute, every breath truly is a gift from God."

The gifted comic George Carlin said he thought dogs lived happy lives because "you never see a dog with a wristwatch". "They don’t worry about time like the rest of us," he said. Novelist Ivan Turgenev said time "sometimes flies like a bird, sometimes crawls like a snail. But a man is happiest when he does not even notice whether it passes swiftly or slowly."

British Field Marshal Harold Alexander had a curious way of dealing with unfinished business. At the end of each working day, he would empty the contents of his "In" tray into his "Out" tray. Asked about this strange habit, Alexander said: "It saves time".

Author Klauss Isler wrote about how he found delight in "wasting time with God". He wrote of a period in his life as a seminary student when he felt he was too busy to spend much time thinking about God. Once he was temporarily blinded in one eye for three weeks and thought it a waste of time. Yet it was in that time that he he learned to lean more on God.

In his book The Freedom of Simplicity, Richard Foster told he was working at a boring job when a friend visited him one day. "He loitered about for nearly an hour, perched on the edge of the table, smoking a cigarette and talking occasionally of nothing in particular. When he had gone I was filled with a special joy because I realised that he had deliberately wasted an hour with me. It was not that we were discussing something of importance or that I needed consoling: it was a pure and unsolicited gift of time. We only deliberately waste time with those we love – it is the purest sign that we love someone if we choose to spend time idly in their presence when we could be doing something more ‘constructive’".

Everywhere is within walking distance, if we have the time. So relax today and count your blessings – one at a time and slowly.

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