It’s Funny How Time Slips By

I had the strangest sensation earlier (it might have been the hallucination of a pre-wake dream) that April was almost over, and we were barreling toward September. A kind of grand perspective of the year, a notion that with four months down, it really isn’t that far until most of the year is gone, and then not much further until all of it is. And in that thought, it occurred to me that the year is really only made up of days, and it doesn’t take much for a day to go by without consequence – so that by extension, the rest of the year can go by without us really even being aware of it.

Time is a strange beast, gnawing away daily at our lives until there’s nothing left. Even into the minutes that make up the day, they can pass like treacle – so slow that you hardly notice, and it seems an endless moment until something else happens – or they can fly by like the Flash circling Superman. For example, I woke up around 8 AM this morning, and I didn’t have to leave for work until around 11:15 AM. That’s a lot of time to do stuff – theoretically. Here’s how my morning played out:

  • 8 AM – 9 AM: Lie with the cat.
  • 9 AM – 9:15 AM: Have coffee.
  • 9:15 AM – 10:30 AM: Nap.
  • 10:30 AM – 11:15 AM: Write this post.

And trust me, I almost didn’t write this post – mainly because I couldn’t think of what to write. I was lying in bed, cozy and warm under the covers but wide awake, and thinking to myself: What on earth should I do now? It was one of those moments where it felt like I had all the time in the world, and nothing to do with it.

But the scary part about that is that the attitude of “there’s plenty of time” is also what leads to lost time. A kind of procrastinator’s curse, if you will. It’s one thing if you put off until tomorrow in order to get something else done, but when you put off something in order to get nothing done, not only does it feel like you’ve wasted your time, but it also feels as though you’re wasting your future time, knowing that you’ll now have to do something when you might not really have the time to do it.

For what it’s worth, I’m not saying that having a warm, cozy morning nap is a waste of time; sometimes it’s exactly what you need. I’m no stranger to self-care, and dealing with mental illness most of my life has taught me that I really do need that ‘me-time’ – at least from time to time. But this morning was different; I wasn’t feeling depressed, stressed, anxious, or really anything negative at all. Instead, I think what happened is I fell into a routine, a habit that has spawned out of the need for sleep and self-care, which led me to, if not ‘waste’ time, at least not use it productively. I could have done any number of things this morning, and I actually would have felt like doing them. But I didn’t.

This sort of philosophy, this kind of behavior that I know I fall prey to really quite frequently, I think, is why I feel like time is slipping away. The more I think about it, the more I wonder how many months – perhaps even years – of my life I could have back had I not spent them sleeping, or moping, or feeling like there was no point doing anything. Not that any of that was really under my control – depression is a real villain, sometimes – but it makes me wonder if, for example, The Redemption of Erâth would be complete by now if I was some other person. Or perhaps I would be further ahead in my career at work.

All of it amounts to the thought that my life is really very limited, and having lived through a decent chunk of it already – all of which is time I’ll never get back – I worry that there isn’t enough of it left. I mean, I could die tomorrow, of course, but assuming nothing untoward happens to me, I still only have maybe four or five decades left. Which, right now, sounds like a lot. But I know me, and I know that I’m going to wake up one day and find that I’m actually old, and that I’ve wasted my life.

Maybe this is all coming across as a kind of midlife crisis rant, and perhaps that’s exactly what it is. I’m certainly not here to commit to ‘doing better’, or not wasting my life anymore, but at the same time, I’m very conscious that every day that goes by without an accomplishment – however small – is a day I’ll never get back.

So here’s my accomplishment for today: I wrote this post. Perhaps no one will read it, but if you do, let me know what you think about life, and time, and whether sleeping the day away counts as a waste. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Daily Photo: August 10, 2012

Hmm…very deep.

Hmm…very deep.

Graffiti philosophy on a bridge in Cincinnati. There were strings of it all along the bridge.

Camera: Apple iPhone 4S          ISO: 64          Focal Length: 4mm          Aperture: ƒ/2.4          Shutter Speed: 1/472

Thought of the Week: An Open Letter to Descartes

Dear Monsieur Descartes,

I wish to bring to your attention a matter of accountability regarding your well-known writings on philosophy and rationalism. It is my belief that you are responsible for a great deal of emotional distress and suffering, and I am seeking reparations for both myself and my fellow sufferers in the form of an acknowledgement of the negative influence of your treatises, and a public apology. For the moment I am willing to forego monetary compensation for the therapy and medication we have collectively paid for, as I am aware three-hundred and fifty years’ compound interest might be beyond your financial means.

Allow to explain. I in no way wish to dismiss your excellent contributions to the fields of philosophy and mathematics. Your system of plotting equations on a graph, though it troubled me greatly in high school, has undoubtedly revolutionized geometry and mathematics as we know it today. Equally, I appreciate the effort you displayed in separating man from god, and your debate on free will is second to none.

However, in your pursuit of truth and certainty, you devised a particular phrase that, despite its simplicity, has had quite a devastating impact on the sanity of myself and many others. I speak, naturally, of this simple sentence:

I think, therefore I am.

You see, whether you intended it or not, this has led to the rise of the philosophy of existentialism, and the potential denial of the reality of anything that is not directly tied to the self. If my existence is proven by my ability to think about it, what of the existence of everything and everyone around me? According to you, their existence is also proven by my ability to think about them; however, the necessary implication of this is that anything I think of is therefore also real.

This leads to what I consider to be the existential dilemma: if an object’s reality is determined solely by the fact that I am thinking of it, how can I then be certain of the reality of anything at all? There is a modern legend that describes this quandary very succinctly. A popular story in our times describes a world in which humans are plugged into machines from birth. These machines provide all the sensory input necessary, directly to the brain, to convince a person (in this case a very wooden Keanu Reeves) that they are, in fact, experiencing reality.

The essence of the problem you have created for us is that we cannot be certain of the existence of anything other than ourselves – by which I mean the collection of our thoughts and minds. According to your philosophy, I cannot even be certain of my flesh and blood, or even if I am actually writing this letter or just imagining the whole thing.

You have failed to follow through with your philosophy, and for this I hold you accountable. In questioning the nature of existence itself, you have failed to provide us with an answer to that question, and show absolute proof that everyone else does, in fact, exist. I hope you understand that such matters are generally beyond the reasoning of most folk (including myself), and so I bow to your superior intellect in providing for us the answer to the dilemma you have left us with for so long.

In conclusion, I request that you submit an acknowledgement of your failure to provide a suitable answer to this problem, and an apology for the loss of sanity you have caused me and many others (if they exist). I have spent a large amount of time and money (if money is real) on therapy and medication (I’m not sure my therapist was real), directly as a result of my inability to resolve your issues. If I do not receive a response from you within fourteen days, I will be forced to seek legal representation (lawyers most certainly exist) and pursue damages as compensation.

I will await your reply (if you exist), and hope we can arrive at a mutual understanding.

Most sincerely,

Satis (if I exist)