Just coming off a 4-day holiday weekend, I wanted to muse a bit about time, how it can be spent and our options for how to use it.
Time is fungible, as in, it is something that can change into other things, which makes it just a little bit magical. Time passes, whether we want it to or not. Time is in constant motion, because the earth and all of its surrounding celestial bodies are also in motion. Time only exists because the earth is moving. Our perception of time as ticks of a clock or passing of days in a calendar are all based on man’s invention of ways to count and measure time. We need those measurements to make sense of our human relationship to time, to build systems around time, and to commodify time by creating a system by way humans will convert time into other things, namely money.
But time does not ONLY turn into money. Time is a required input, along with intention, in growing human relationships, building trust, nurturing and caring for other living beings and building systems that can facilitate others doing the same. By saying that time equals money, we are setting ourselves up with a very limited frame through which to view the world. It feeds into the system that keeps power structures as they are and systemically devalues “work” traditionally done by women and non-colonial cultures. If we, as humans, choose to, we could play the long game and expand our view of what time means, so that our species can survive in perpetuity, or at least for a longer time than we are currently driving toward.
Our current economic paradigm has always been based on turning time into money by any means necessary. In order to “expand” time into more and more money, we co-opted other people’s time through slavery and other paid (or underpaid) laborers, so hundreds of human beings time could be converted into our money. We consider it adequate now to allow for at least some of those people to earn their own money based on their labor, but they will still be obligated into this same conversion paradigm. If you do not put in your own time as labor that someone else deems worthy to pay you for, you will not survive. The system will not allow it.
But, going back to time, the reason this picture is still incomplete is that time, when combined with intention, can actually be anything, not just money. Time can heal natural environments, when human’s extractive industries move out. Time can be restore balance in ecosystems, when we stop trying to manage them from the top down. Time can bring about transformational change in people and their relationships when proper intention is brought to bear. Time is a little like magic when we let it be.
We can see the converting of time to human relationships very clearly at the beginning and end of life. The most precious, most valuable time you will ever have with your children is when they are very young. The time you invest is time you can never get back. Also, when a parent or loved one nears the end of their life, time is the most valuable commodity. No amount of money in the world will buy more of their time living on this earth.
So manage your time wisely. You do not have to subscribe to the fable that time is money; time is so much more than money and it is more valuable. So do not work if the work does not speak to you. Do spend as much time as possible with your children, parents, family and friends and make the time count. Be present. Be intentional. Play games. Have fun. Make memories. Love always. Also, gather with others who have a more expansive view of time and build structures to support it. Vote for paid family leave. Support others as needed so they can also be intentional with their time. Give freely. What you give will come back to you when you least expect it.