Life - The time of your life
by Narendra Murty
A passenger jet was cruising through mid-air. The pilot addressed the passengers from his cockpit, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am your pilot and I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news first: Our navigation system has broken down due to some unknown technical fault. We don’t know where or which way we are headed.” He paused for a while and said, “Now the good news. We are going at full speed.”
The situation of the urban man is very similar to that of the passengers in the plane. Yes, we are all going at full speed. Life is moving on the fast lane. However, we do not know where we are going. We are running simply because everyone around us is running. From daybreak until nightfall, it is always rush hour. If nature had not imposed the forced rest called sleep, probably we would have rushed for 24 hours! Sleep is not seen as a necessity but as a necessary evil. Of course, some would protest saying, ‘We do know where we are going. We are moving towards our goals like money, power, and position.” Granted, but no one seems to have arrived. Surely some of us by now, should have reached? However, nobody is home. All are still on the racetrack. One grey morning, we suddenly wake up to find that life has passed us by. While on the race track, we had postponed living for a future date. Now the future is suddenly here and we find that we have not lived at all.
Disease and old age – things that always happened to other people – have suddenly caught up with us, and the capacity to enjoy life has been robbed from us. Enjoyment and happiness, which we always thought would be waiting for us at the finishing line of our race, are nowhere to be seen. The finishing line itself became a receding horizon at every step, because it never existed in the first place. The Desiderata (Latin: desired things), a prose poem by Max Ehrmann, begins with the words, “Go placidly, amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.” Sage advice, but for us there is no question of going placidly, it is always peak hour in our lives. Moreover, where is silence? Here, all is din and noise.
Lack of time?
What have we achieved with all our speed, and with all our running and rushing? Material affluence is our great achievement, the prize.
However, one important consequence of this kind of life seems to have escaped our notice. In the midst of all this material affluence, we have created a great poverty in our lives, the poverty of time. When it comes to time, we are paupers. We do not have any of it.
The irony does not end there. No other generation has used as many labour-saving devices as we do: Computers at the work place and at home, automated production of goods and services, washing machines, microwave ovens, room heaters, lawn mowers, and tractors – the list is practically endless. Yet there is no visible decrease in the amount of labour. No labour seems to have been saved by this array of labour-saving devices. Because no other generation has had poverty of time. If we insist that time had indeed been saved, what do we do with the saved time? We go on adding time to our hours of work. No other generation in the entire history of mankind has worked for as many hours as we do today.
Something has gone horribly wrong somewhere. We work ourselves silly and land up in a hospital bed. Corporate burnout, they call it. No one stands up and says ‘This is absurd.’ In fact, society says this lifestyle is normal.
Is this normal life?
Why should we follow this so-called normal life? To what end? So that we may have material affluence and success to enjoy life. But what is life? Isn’t it time? What is life but time? A time-starved generation wants to enjoy life, completely missing the point that life is made up of time, that time is the very stuff of life. Moreover, we take pride in our intelligence; what kind of absurdity is this?
It is not for nothing that Tagore had penned, “When tumultuous work raises its din on all sides Shutting me out from beyond, Come to me, my Lord of silence, with thy peace and rest…” However, there is no silence, peace, and rest for us, only the noise, and the rush.
Health is not the only thing we sacrifice, because of this ceaseless rushing. Relationships fall by the wayside. No more quiet evenings with our mates – no more noisy parties with bawdy jokes, laughter, and wine – no more heated debates over politics and religion with friends whom we have known for years – no more reading stories to our children. No, we are too busy for all that. Time is the one thing we do not have. Instead, we have Facebook. We are no longer related to others but ‘connected’ over cyberspace. Not a relationship with shared time,’ but ‘staying connected’ is what we have devised for ourselves. To fill up the void of our lonely lives, we boast of hundreds of friends on Facebook. Aristotle must have been a fool when he wrote, “He who has too many friends, has no friend.”
True friendship requires investment of our time. We have substituted that with posting updates. We are constantly updated about what our cyber friends are doing, but this knowledge doesn’t assuage our isolation and loneliness. That is why in spite of having hundreds of friends on Facebook, we are still lonely and alienated. We forget that when we are in low spirits, what we require is not hundreds of cyber friends, but a single friend in flesh and blood who would cheer us with his outrageous stories, and infectious laughter. A friend means a voice that soothes, not a computer screen, a touch, a hug that comforts, not a computer keyboard. But that requires time. So with all this ‘connectedness,’ we are still lonely.
So we all know what ‘not having time’ means. But what does it mean to have time? It means to have the leisure to experience life in its wholeness and intensity. However, leisure is a much-maligned thing, if not a sin in this work-enslaved world, where men die in harness. It is a world where everybody is going at full speed, where everyone is sprinting with eyes set on a golden future. Here, unless we trip on our health or on broken relationships, we never notice time. In effect, life is being used up at a tremendous pace, and before we realise, it is over. The tightly-packed hours do not allow us to have an insight into our own lives.
How would we feel if we filled our apartment with so much furniture that we have hardly any room to move about? Would it be livable? The usefulness and beauty of the house lies in its empty spaces. The Tao Te Ching says, “It is on the empty space where there is nothing that The usefulness of the house depends…”
All work and no play
Similarly, when we pack our life with excessive work and activity, we feel trapped and suffocated. Leisure consists of the empty spaces of life. Leisure is of the essence when we are talking about enjoying life. It is not a sin, rather a much-needed ingredient, which would restore some sanity to our crazed, frenzied lives. Enjoying life takes time. It takes time to belong to others. It takes time to enjoy the spring air, the dark rain clouds, and the rolling mists. It takes time to listen to music, to read the classics, to enjoy the laughter of a child, and the kitten playing in your lap. There’s a time for everything. That is why the legendary folk singer, Pete Seeger, sang from the Ecclesiastes:
“To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven;
A time to be born, a time to die;
A time to plant, a time to reap;
A time to kill, a time to heal;
A time to laugh, a time to weep…
A time for every purpose under heaven”
So it takes time to experience life. It is as simple and straightforward as that. If we say that weekends are the only time when we can be ourselves, does t hat mean we are not living at all during the week, for the major part of our lives? Only when we learn to create spaces in our lives and balance our work with leisure, would we be able to go placidly amid the noise and haste.
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Subject: Thanks - 11 February 2013
I had gone through your topics. It touched my deeper part of my heart. I really felt the truth.I appreciate and want more lessons in LP
by: Dwijendra Nath Das
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