Time: A luxury we CAN afford

Liz Kovac, Engagement Editor

It’s midterm season. Maybe you’ve finished your last one. Maybe there’s some still waiting for you. Either way, you’re stressed. Now more than ever, you feel that there are not enough cells in your brain. Not enough days in the week or enough time in the day.

Take a moment. Breathe. Have a cup of tea. Cuddle with your dog. Then …

Go to an art museum.

Find a painting that’s a few hundred years old, sit yourself down in front of it and take it in. Look at the grandeur. The detail. The finesse of each brush stroke. We don’t make things like this anymore. Why? Because our world has become so fast-paced that we’ve forgotten the value of time.

Flashback to Germany, 1440. A craftsperson tirelessly works to embellish on the Chinese technique of woodblock printing. It is a long, tedious, boring endeavor. But he works away, inching toward a possibility. A dream. A greater good. This is Gutenberg, and he’s about to unleash the printing press — an invention that will change the world.

Since their initial invention, machines were made to outwork us, to accomplish feats of which we are incapable — to compete with time.

Today, machines have taken over our way of life and mass production has us cranking out as much product in as little time as possible. In doing so, we trade quality for quantity and end up expecting from ourselves the results only a machine can produce. Is this how we view ourselves? As machines?

It seems so, because we’ve coined terms that sum up and even praise the robotic lifestyle to which we’ve grown accustom. It’s called “the hustle” or “the grind.” These sound like plaques over doors to torture chambers. No wonder we’re stressed and depressed and anxious. We’ve forgotten that even the invention of machines came after years of back-breaking effort. They, too, took time.

Let’s rewind.

It’s the mid-19th century. Ralph Waldo Emerson leads the transcendentalism movement.

What is transcendentalism, you ask? It suggests that divinity is present in all nature and humanity and is based on the idea that the nature of reality can only be understood along with the nature of experience. Deep.

Anyway, Emerson stated, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

What Emerson provides here is a recipe. Honor, compassion, and positive influence are ingredients in the recipe of wholeness. Notice I don’t use the word happiness, but wholeness.

This is what I believe Emerson meant by the words lived well. When we read the words, we don’t feel excited. We don’t feel happy. We feel warm. Comforted. Whole. Wholeness is deep, satisfying and genuine compared to happiness, which is fleeting and shallow — a temporary high.

Emerson’s quote also suggests that the only things that give life purpose take time. It takes time to cultivate compassion and to decide what it personally means to be honorable. It takes time to sew your seeds and time for them to grow.

Time doesn’t want us to compete with her, but to work with her. Like Gutenberg was an expert craftsperson, time is an expert tradesperson.

The artist of the painting you’re sitting across from accepted that better quality work required a larger quantity of time. They worked with time instead of competing against her and their art lives on because of it.

But this isn’t about art on the wall. It’s about the art of living — our day to day. It’s about the career you’re trying to catapult yourself into, the relationship you’re trying to invest in, the material you’re trying to learn or those pounds you’re trying to lose.

As much as food, as much as water, as much as oxygen … humans need time. Approach time as your friend, not your enemy. Embrace her for what she is and all that she has to offer. Work with her instead of competing against her and see how she surprises you.