The other day, we were visiting friends… and I fell in love with an hourglass which took pride of place on their coffee table.  It was a proper hour glass – that, once you tip it over, streams sand for exactly one hour.

I found it quite mesmerising to watch… the sand trickling through the tiny neck, counting down the seconds… the minutes… the hour.  It occurred to me that I was actually witnessing “time-run-out” in a physical way… which suddenly made the phrase far more poignant than it had been before.

Time running out.

Later that day, Nick said something to me that really got me thinking.

He said:  “Imagine if we all had human-sized hourglasses shaped like ourselves… and, inside, there was enough sand to represent the years of our lives.  I wonder if we’d so easily waste our time and our lives if we were regularly reminded that… every day… every moment… every hour… our time is running out”…

And that’s the thing about time:  you can never get it back.

That’s also the thing about life.  The years cannot be rewound.  If we waste our lives – then wasted they are.   It’s done.   We can’t decide one day:  “Hang on!  I think I’m finally ready to actually live life now.  Please can I rewind to the beginning?”

I wonder what would change if we all owned human-sized hourglasses… so we could literally see our lives and our time… slowly disappearing before our eyes.  I wonder if it would change the way we live and think?

  • Would we still waste our lives away on meaningless obligations, expectations and duties?
  • Would we still spend as much time facebooking and tweeting?
  • Would we still choose to work long hours at jobs we hate?
  • Or to sit in rush hour traffic every day?
  • Or stare at a television set for hours on end?

If we could… physically… see time running out… life slowly slipping away…?

Nick said something else that struck a powerful chord.  He said:  “When I sign up for a new project, I am selling my employers a piece of my life.  I am giving them time that I will never, ever get back…  time that I could spend investing in other things.  Time that I could be spending with my family.  That is what they are paying for when they pay for my services”.

I never thought of it that way.

And suddenly, I saw the time he sells others as being something infinitely more valuable than the money he gets paid for it.  It has put a new perspective on things…

A friend recently posted this quote by Ellen Goodman on his Facebook page:

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it”

So… we sell our lives and our precious time (often for a minuscule amount of money)… to other people… in order to pay for cars and clothes and daycare… so that we can go-to-work… in order to afford homes that (most?) of us don’t even live in!?

Doesn’t the whole thing just seem more than just a little bit bullshitty to you?

Even… perhaps… a bit insane?

I dunno.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers to life’s intense questions (and yes – I know we all need to earn money – which, in most cases, costs us our time)… but I also know that our time is the most precious and valuable commodity that we have.  There is not an infinite supply of it… and it will run out one day, just like the sand in the hourglass.

I don’t know about you – but I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life.

  • I’ve wasted time time trying to please others – because I was so worried about what they’d say about me… or think about me.
  • I’ve wasted time trying to “fix” my deficits (instead of actively investing into my strengths).
  • I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to live up to the expectations of other people.
  • I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to be someone I’m not.
  • I’ve wasted a lot of time in front of the television set.
  • I’ve wasted a lot of time… sitting… obediently… listening to school teachers, politicians and religious leaders talk and talk and talk some more…
  • I’ve wasted a lot of time sitting in traffic… and working long, unsatisfying hours for nasty clients.
  • I’ve wasted a lot of time earning money in order to pay off debt (mostly for the purchase of stuff that I never even needed in the first place!)
  • I’ve wasted a lot of time being horrendously self-critical and heaping hatred upon my body (because it didn’t meet the expectations I had placed upon it)
  • I’ve wasted a lot of time dreaming… without doing.

I’ve wasted a lot of time.

And I don’t want to waste any more of it.

Time is running out.  My time on this earth gets shorter… every moment of every day.

What will I DO with the time that I have?

What will you do?

Footnote:  I’ve been thinking a lot about Philip Seymour Hoffman… one of my favourite actors… who passed away yesterday.   He was just a few years older than me – and already, the sands in his hourglass have run out.   How very fragile we are.