What’s your most valuable commodity?
You may have thought of your house or some appliance or object within it; perhaps you thought of a loved one, widening the term ‘commodity’ to embrace them. If you think less tangibly for a moment, though, you might agree that your most valuable commodity is probably Time.
Time is certainly the thing which a child craves from its parents or grown-ups generally and it is probably the thing which you crave most from others. Not just empty ‘Time’, though: time filled with pleasure, or at least contentment. The hours spent lying in with someone in a quiet morning; the morning used to create a painting with a child; the afternoon spent watching a good film together. The contentment, the creativity, the enjoyment are all vital parts of those equations, but without the Time added, they can become hollow: a few minutes lying in, painting or watching a movie as opposed to an hour or two robs the positivity of its power.
How then do you acquire this most valued commodity from someone, especially in today’s internet-based culture where the image of a ‘rat-race’ might have been replaced by one of the ‘clicking finger storm’?
By giving and sharing your own time.
You won’t be able to lay claim to someone else’s time if you covet too much of your own.
Today’s fast-paced, highly timetabled world serves to make Time even more precious. Those few hours at the end of the day when we can ‘wind down’, or perhaps those few minutes at the beginning of the day before the clicking storm arrives, have escalated in value over recent years, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight of that upward value curve.
There’s a short story by J. G Ballard called ‘Billenium’ in which some characters, living in an immensely crowded space of a future city where space is a premium, discover a secret, larger-than-average room adjacent to their rented cubicle. The extra personal space is almost overwhelming - they have never experienced anything like it - but then they allow two other close friends to share the space, who eventually bring families to live in the room. In the end, the ‘extra space’ is just another crowded cubicle in an overpopulated world.
It’s the same with Time: as we find ‘time to ourselves’, ‘time to relax’, ‘time to escape’, we slowly but inevitably fill it with motion and action. The storm of the modern web-based world intrudes click by click, and before we are fully aware of it, our time is swallowed up again.
Paradoxically, then, the answer to this is not to covet Time or to try to fence it off or timetable it: the real way forward is to spread it around. Seconds are like seeds and minutes are like seedlings; hours are young plants growing visibly into trees, and a day is a fully grown harvest.
Just as with seeds, they must be spread to grow. Some will fall upon stony ground, some will perish in the sun, some will be wasted in thorny ground, just as the parable says. But some will bear fruit, and glorious fruit too.
Spelling this out clearly then: if you want more time for yourself, or for your own projects, take what time you have and give it to others. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s the only way to reap the harvest.