The problem has always been what to do with one’s time. Mankind has invented many things to fill up the hours. First and foremost, there are our “jobs,” those things we do to make money to buy the things we would have done for ourselves had we not spent our time working our jobs. I do not mean to say that we ought to quit our employment. Most of us cannot at this point anyway because of the way our society is set up, and that is not necessarily a bad thing because most people end up in trouble when they have too much time on their hands. But it is undeniable that our jobs do intentionally use up a lot of time each day.
|Water lily simplicity.|
What to do with one’s time? If we sleep for eight hours and work for eight hours, that leaves us with eight hours for everything else in our day. This causes a bit of a panic inside for many people because they have been told they must do something exciting and worthwhile with their time. Something fun. Something “over the top.” Something big. And very often it has to be bigger and better than what the neighbors are doing. It just has to.
And so you will see people chasing the “good times,” the definition of which continually changes thanks to our corporate advertisers and propaganda. Like the rainbow, the good times shimmer beautifully in the sky, promising us the pot of gold . . . if we just go a little further, if we just venture one more mile, if we just give up a little more time and a little more money (which is another word for time).
We have got to buy that luxury car or that large expensive home we cannot afford. We have got to go on that trip to Europe and put it on credit. We have got to buy a better bottle of wine, a better cut of steak, a silk jacket, a fur coat, a crystal vase . . . Because we deserve it, right? Have we not worked hard for it? Spent a lot of time to get the money for it? Should we not have the “good things” in life?
Of course, there truly are good things in life, certain events that really are bigger than ordinary everyday living, and of course, we do anticipate them longingly and look back on them with rapture. There is nothing wrong with that at all. That is a good thing. An old black and white polaroid photo of a wedding couple. The deed for our first little home. A diamond ring and a promise. A new baby. Yes, these are all good things.
The problem is that many people want more and more “good” things, big things, exciting things, unusual things. They chase them down hungrily, but as soon as they get them, they want the next big thing. Now what do I do? Now where should I go? Now what should I buy? So often, people finally achieve a goal (usually just an expensive purchase) and find themselves feeling hollow and empty. Somehow the pot of gold was moved while they were busy chasing it.
People have been told to think there always has to be something “big” happening because there are only eight hours in each day after our sleep and employment obligation, and many of those hours must be spent on mundane things. Preparing food, cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, doing the laundry . . . this is why you find so many people living in squalor who know better because they do not want to “waste” those precious few hours they have cooking and cleaning. They tell themselves the chores will always be there waiting for them later. Indeed, they will.
You will notice in the truly good things I mentioned above—the wedding, the deed, the promise, the baby, etc.—none of them involve anything too commercial, anything too outrageous, anything too glamorous. Yes, everything costs time and money, but there is nothing in that list that requires you to keep up with the Joneses. In fact, all of those things are just part of simple living, which is really all we have to do with the time given us.
Actually, it is the only thing we have to do with the time given us: Simply live. Realize that there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but there are dishes in the sink that must be washed. Realize that there is no true status to be obtained by getting a luxury automobile, but there is a lawn that must be mowed so the backyard can be enjoyed. Realize that there is no lasting happiness in constant jet-setting, but there is a child who wants you to read a book to him before he goes to bed.
Because really that is all there is, just plain living, and plain living involves work and chores and whining children and barking dogs and endless laundry and dirty dishes. What to do with one’s time? Simply live. Put your house and your life in order by handling your responsibilities and doing your simple chores, and magically you find that your mind slips into order as well. A hidden reward for your hard work.
Yes, our lives are dotted with little golden gems we tuck away into our memories. The old photo of everyone together at Thanksgiving dinner. The first day of school. The first bike. The best dog. The new house. The prolific garden. These are the true pots of gold, and they are scattered sparsely throughout our lives. But in between all of these golden gems is dishes and scrubbing, washing and cooking, mowing and digging, and kissing a bumped head.
This is what you do with the time allotted you, the time that is so precious and so short, and heaven help you if you cannot see that. Heaven help you if you hand away your precious time chasing deliberately-placed, lack-luster rainbows, which evaporate into nothing.