I just watched the movie In Time with Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. The movie was about a society where people stop aging at 25. However, if you want to live longer than that, you have to pay. In this fictional society, time has actually become the currency. And the rich live forever, while the poor literally run out of time. The system is corrupt, as the main character Will Sallas (Timberlake) finds out early on from a man who has centuries to his name (think of that like a million dollars) but is tired of living. He tells Will that there is plenty of time for everyone to live as long as they want, but the people at the top are hoarding the time because, in their words, “for a few to be immortal, many must die”. This man then proceeds to transfer all his time to Will while Will is asleep, and then, “times out”, his clock runs down to zero, and he has what looks like a heart attack and dies.
Will wakes up to find this man dead, and over a century on his clock (each person has a clock somehow surgically embedded into their arm showing their time, and allowing them to transfer time between themselves and others – or computers – just by touch). He goes to try and find his mother – but she “times out” before he can reach her and she dies inches before he gets to her.
In a conversation with his benefactor before his untimely demise (get it, untimely? Ha!) he was asked “what would you do if you had all the time in the world?”
Will answers, “I sure as hell wouldn’t waste it”.
With a simultaneous desire to fulfill this unexpected promise to the dead philanthropist and to take revenge upon the system for the death of his mother, he heads to “New Greenwich” (the symbolism there is a bit heavy handed but oh well, I thought it was clever) which is the center and capital of this time-honoring society.
In conjunction with the daughter of a time-lending magnate who he kidnaps (although she soon realizes that his cause is one she would live and die for and joins him willingly) he attempts to take down the corrupt system that is holding a majority of men and women hostage in order to allow a few to live forever.
In the end, he and the girl (Seyfried) rob time-banks in a futurist Robin Hood move, so that they can distribute the time to those who have none.
Sorry for the movie review. But it was necessary for me to get to the point I want to make in this post. Basically, what I want to talk about tonight is time. Time forms the basic framework for our human experience. We measure it with atomic clocks, using our artificial system of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years. We use our invented units of time to give ourselves a map of our lives. We say thing like, “When I was 10 years old” or “In 2010, I did…”.
I know I have talked a bit about this before when referencing the relativity of our experiences, but time does as we actually experience it is fluid and changing, not regimented the way our clocks “measure” it. We say things like, “time flies when you’re having fun” and “a watched pot never boils”. That is how time actually occurs for us. It changes depending on what we are doing. A good example of this in my own life is my meditation practice. When I sit down to do my “formal” meditation, I turn on Pandora (tuned to a station called Heart Meditations), put down my yoga mat, and sit in the lotus position. It doesn’t matter what position you meditate in, nor if you listen to music…the specifics really don’t matter at all. What matters is consistency. I do these particular things because they signal to my body and my mind that it is time to sink into that unique mental state that my meditation requires. But after a few minutes, once I am deep into my meditative state, I lose track of time almost completely. Even though often one or both of my feet fall asleep, even though I set an alarm on my phone to remind me when it is time to wrap up, even though the music playing should mark the passage of time, I don’t feel it.
In contrast, if I just tried to sit still in a chair for 20 or 30 minutes, even if music was playing, I would have difficulty staying still that long. I would be constantly watching the clock and thinking about what I was going to do next. But when I meditate, the time just slips by.
That is why I believe that time is just as relative as anything else in our world. Our perception of time changes the way it behaves. Although we don’t fully understand it (just like most other complex abstract concepts which describe the properties of our world), time is a key part of what it means to be human.
It is not surprising that someone had the idea to write a story (and a movie) about time as a currency. If someone could somehow capture and store time, it would instantly become the world’s most valuable commodity.
But that, I think, would actually be a mistake.
Yes, time is valuable, thus the old saying “time is money”. But it is not quite as valuable as we may think. In western society we are plagued with the disease of “busyness”. We are busy with a million things and we feel as if we have no time to do them. We are constantly staying up late and getting up early. We invented “fast food” so that we can rush our way through meals and get back to work. It is clear that we are suffering from a ruthless and insidious illness that has made us believe that the only thing of true value is doing things.
But in reality, although doing is indeed valuable, it has its limits. At a certain point, our minds, bodies, and spirits cannot keep doing without taking out some time for being.
When we are so busy that we are constantly worrying about what comes next, we lose track of the “now”. We stop actually living our lives in the present and begin to live in the future, which does not, in fact, exist at all. We try and control everything going on around us, which is impossible. Basically, we set ourselves up for failure, disappointment, anger, frustration, and most of all, utter exhaustion. We are not meant to be busy all the time. There is a reason why our bodies require sleep. The longest a human being has ever lived truly without sleep is something like 14 days. After even a day or two without sleep we experience myriad physical and psychological symptoms that are crippling. If you’ve ever stayed up all night and tried to function the next day, you know that after a while you actually start to feel intoxicated. I have done/said stranger things from lack of sleep than a majority of the times I got blackout drunk.
Anyway, enough about sleep. What I am really trying to say is that when we are so focused on what we need to do, we lose sight of what we want to be. And part of my wellness quest is about me truly finding a new way to be: to become the person I want to be.
And in that endeavor, time is not really a factor. Because I cannot truly do what I want to do unless I am who I want to be.
Ask yourself these questions tonight:
Do you overvalue time?
Do you have difficulty saying “no” to commitments?
Do you feel guilty when you sit down to relax or to do something that is “unproductive”?
Most importantly, do you truly know who you are, right now at this minute? And does that person correspond with the person you want to be?
Because if not, there is a problem. And the problem is not that you haven’t done enough in order to make yourself into the person you want to be. The problem is you haven’t spent enough time being yourself and getting to know yourself rather than searching for some ideal that may not even exist.
I am not advocating laziness, which, in our society, is a dirty word. I am advocating peace and balance. Not busy enough is a problem. But too busy is an even bigger one.
Hope you enjoyed tonight’s post and that you weren’t too busy to read it!