All the Time in the World

Apr 16, 2013   //   by admin   //   A Slice of Lemon, Articles  //  No Comments

HourglassIN SHORT:  Having all the time in the world makes us lazy. What would your priorities be if you suddenly found you had only a few months, or just weeks left on your clock? So why aren’t they your priorities now..?

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time,
for that is the stuff life is made of.”
[Benjamin Franklin, 18th-century US Founding Father & polymath]

No-one’s final words have ever been
“I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”


(~1120 words, approx. 5-8 mins to read)

It really is a strange thing, time.

It’s the fourth dimension of our existence but, unlike the other three, we get no choice which direction we travel in. We are compelled by our nature to proceed at a speed of precisely 60 minutes per hour, no u-turns, stops, diversions or changes. The clock on the wall ticks, denoting each passing second with the unspoken promise of one to follow. Each of those seconds-yet-to-come contains an inexpressibly large variety of possibilities, but as each ticks by we chose only one single future and via that singular ever-in-motion moment we call ‘now’ we solidify it into a fact and carve it into the stone tablet of our history, a history that can now no longer be changed.

In March 2010 I wrote of a friend of ours who had been told she had cancer. Terminal: one word and yet a sentence. She had already lived for longer than her prognosis indicated, but four months later she lost her battle, gracious and strong to the end, and passed away. A few days ago her husband, a quiet and very private man, shared something he’d not mentioned before, about her prognosis, and it really did make me stop and think.

But we’ll get to that in a moment – I need to talk about a film first.

Some of you might have seen the movie “In Time”. If you haven’t then here’s a summary of the general premise of the film, without spoilers. The movie is set in one of the myriad of possible dystopian futures that sci-fi writers love, in this case one where the saying “Time is Money” is now literally true – instead of cash, the currency is time. The whole population are genetically engineered to stop ageing when they reach 25 years old BUT at that same moment, your biological clock starts ticking, counting your life down second by second. When your clock hits zero, your time has run out – you die, there and then on the spot. Time can be earned – wages are paid in hours and minutes, or weeks and months if you’re a high earner. Time can be spent – a cup of coffee will cost you four minutes of your life, and not just because of the time it takes to drink it. Time can be invested, earn interest, be shared, given to others in a transaction or as a gift, and can be stolen too. But you are constantly aware of time and its passing, and of how much you have left.

That awareness of time does things to different sections of society in the movie. The ‘time poor’ live from one day to the next on a daily wage, with usually no more than 24 hours on their ‘clock’. So they don’t waste that time on frivolous activities, never sauntering or wasting words or just sitting around – instead they use every moment they have either productively or in enjoyment, realising that life is short so it needs to be lived. Not so the richest, who have all the time in the world – and that’s not a figure of speech! Whilst they have the all luxuries and never need to rush, they walk around with bodyguards, in fear of having their time stolen, and never ever engage in anything that might possibly cause injury or death for fear of losing all the time they’re carrying. Whilst they have all that time, the paradox is that they never really experience living. What’s interesting is what happens when a time poor chap finds himself with over a century of time on his hands, and when a rich girl suddenly finds she has only minutes to go.

But let’s get back to what my friend shared a few days ago. He said that when he and his wife were told she had between six months and a year to live, it made life a lot simpler. I’ll repeat that; having knowledge of exactly how much time she had left simplified life, and here’s why:

He said that being told her time was limited made them focus on what was important, who they needed to spend time with, what activities they would make sure they did together, what really needed to be said and done and, just as usefully, what was less meaningful, trivial, unproductive, people and things that they’d accumulated but weren’t contributing to their life any more, things that could be let go of and left behind.

Not having ‘all the time in the world’ provided extra clarity and perspective on pretty much every aspect of their daily life. He described it as a gift – a costly gift, yes, but a gift nonetheless in their point of view. Every day became precious, especially when she lived beyond the year.

I couldn’t help wondering what my reaction to that would be. If, for example you had only a year left, what would you do? What about only 6 months, or just a month? And if you had but 24 hours to go on your clock?

If your train of thought is anything like mine, after acknowledging you’d spent at least a few minutes in shock, I realised that the less time I had left, the more the things that really matter rose to the top of the list. Those will be different for each one of us, whether it’s time with family and friends, travelling to places we always meant to go, experiencing something we’ve perhaps been too fearful of up until now, getting rid of or out of a current situation, prioritising key projects at work or home because they provide you with a sense of purpose, or something else – the key is that it would force us to focus on what really makes us happy and feel fulfilled.

Which begs the question:

Are we making enough time for those things currently?

Rather than wait until we’re required by circumstance to focus, what’s stopping us prioritising them here and now?

I’m becoming convinced that too much time on our hands makes us lazy. I have to conclude that the best way to live would be such that, if I found out my hourglass had only minutes left to run, I’d be able to say truthfully that I had no wrongs to put right, no situations unresolved, that I had accomplished all I could in the time I’d had already, I’d invested it wisely and was satisfied with my life. I’m honestly not sure I could say that yet, so perhaps it’s time to stop writing and get on with sorting and prioritising, putting some of the really important things back in their rightful place in my life and letting go of the clutter that doesn’t really matter any more…

Want to join me?

Until next time,


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