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Saturday, 25 February 2012

Time waits for no man

I would like to talk about time.
To me, time seems like a bit of an insane concept of mans own making. Almost a currency. We barter our time with each other and the environment. As a child we perceive time as an eternal and immortal concept: We understand death from the ants that we crush; we accept old people as something alien to how we perceive existence. Time for a child, so it seems, is cheap. As those hormones and social pressures build and manifest, our perception of time gradually speeds up. Summer holidays appear shorter. The time between birthdays feels faster. The drive to achieve something kicks in. You slowly start to get the idea that time is a bit of an enemy. I must finish this assignment by June. I must lose my virginity this summer. I have to swim with the dolphins and climb up Matchu Pichu before I am 40. I have to finish the ironing before my husband gets home. These things all demand our time. Mundane or magical, everything that we do, want to do or hope to do is a burden on our precious allocation of time. A span which, lets face it, in the grand scheme of things is so insignificant that we are just a micro-spasm on the lifecycle of the universe. As an adult, time becomes expensive.

The concept of time bartering is a way of controlling this perception. If you have enough money and power and charismatic skill you can purchase the time of other individuals. Employ them to do the things that you don’t want to do but will directly improve your own state of being and potentially alter your own perception of time. Time flies when you’re having fun. But as children, the good times seemed to shine brightly as golden moments in our pasts. These memories, these snippets are fixed as eternal beacons in time. To be able to continue filling your life with golden memory after golden memory, with no drudgery is the aspiration of the majority of our species.

The one thing we all have that can be taken away from us is time. A man, convicted for a crime pays by spending his time in isolation from the majority of the rest of the world and society. Though the ultimate is murder or the death penalty. As social and mortal creatures this is really the only valuable commodity that we are all born with. But we are not all allotted the same amount of time. The stretch that we get is ordered and controlled by a complex mixture of genetics and environmental factors. Some are more predisposed to cancer than others. Some have addictive personalities. Some are risk averse and some are risk takers. To a lesser extent we have some control over these variables. But the sub-conscious, biology and the concept of luck are capable of throwing some very sneaky curve balls at us. Do we self sabotage? Will we be run over by a number 47 bus? Will we acquire HIV or diabetes? Or will we simply spend 40 years on a drip and life support machine suspended in unconscious oblivion and disconnected from the physical world?

The understanding of this concept of time as a commodity purveys our lives. What a waste of time that was or you might just finish something in the nick of time. And the sad thing is that we are so involved in our own lives and in the routine of day to day living that a lot of the time we don’t even realize that time is moving on. It is only the day you notice the first crows feet round your eyes or the odd grey hairs or the slight shortness of breath after climbing the stairs that you get a quick reminder that time is a ticking.

For me, getting HIV was a very sharp slap in the face and wake up call to my own limited existence. You suddenly realize that you are one day going to die. You suddenly have a potential candidate of how you might go. One minute you are blissfully ambling along, just getting on with life. The next you are hit with the stark reality of your own mortality. And you cant help, even if it is just a fleeting thought of a subconscious musing, but to think that you have caused this yourself. That you have added a further complication and constraint on your finite allotment of time. This is a rather sobering, overwhelming and daunting realisation. Many different patterns of though start to evolve from this spark of knowledge.

I must eat healthier
I must stop smoking
I must fuck as many people as I can because whats the worst that will happen to me now?
I must stop fucking any other people because I don’t want to pass this on.
I must leave some kind of legacy
I must take more time to look after me.

The list goes on and on. I guess this is something which humans are very good at. If the situation changes you evolve your approach to achieve the most desirable outcome. We are very efficient like that. But for me, I have recently had some uncomfortable brushes with time.

2 weeks ago I turned 36. Now on the surface this age doesn’t appear to be such a big issue. But I had a particularly negative idea appear in my head: If I live to be 70, which going off the mortality rates of men in my family is probably not a distinct possibility, then I have now lived out the first half of my life. I am now on the second half. The growing old half. The slide to death half. This idea caused a feeling of panic. A sense of urgency has begun to swell. If I am going to achieve anything good and great from my life then I had better pull my finger out and do something before I am dribbling into my incontinence pads. The second brush with time I have recently had is noticing the rapid changes in my kids. They seem to be growing up very VERY quickly! My daughter is changing into a young woman. My eldest son is going to start high school this year. Their self expressions of culture, music taste and fashion etc are taking form to become distinct and independent. Though your role as a parent never ends, the function as a mentor and life coach becomes less and less significant as your own children mature into adults themselves. In a way, time is running out for me to be that guide for them. Though I would like to think they will always look to me as a source of impartiality and support but once they are all grown up their ability to make their own decisions becomes self sufficient.

For now however, I think I have spent enough time writing this. After all, I have lots of other stuff to be doing too and time waits for no man.  


  1. We live in the eternal present but with our condition we are monitored every three months and everything is checked, and any developing other condition is likely to be picked up earlier than it might otherwise have been. This means that the allotted length of time may gain a certain elasticity because one is in a position to modify behaviours....But above all just enjoy the days as each comes along, Sufficient unto the day are the troubles therof - let the future and the past take care of themselves, the one is done and the other is always going to be tomorrow....

  2. Sage words indeed rhapsodie. I think I am just trying to highlight here that your way of thinking changes a little when you have a status change.

  3. Excellent post Richard. Well done.

    It was John Lennon who once said:

    "Time you enjoy wasting; was not wasted."

    How true he was!