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What “Time” Is It

“It’s not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised and the mosquito swatted.” – Marie O’Connor

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Time, or more specifically our lack of it, is modern America’s fixation. Our society is obsessed with the quest to cram more and more into less and less. We hustle, hurry and hasten to expedite every area of our lives.

We use more time-saving devices than any culture on Earth. Yet, breathless from our rush, we still find the day too short to complete all that we’ve intended.

Is time really in such short supply? Or have we become a society of “mosquitoes,” always so busy being busy that it has distorted our concept of time?

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Our society places great importance on time. It’s of such value that we’ve developed ways to measure it to exacting precision. However, although time can be precisely measured, perceiving its actual passage is strictly subjective.

Every hour always has 60 minutes. There are no exceptions. Still, no two hours are ever experienced at the same pace. Anyone who’s ever sat cringing in a dentist’s chair or listening to a dull lecture knows how slowly time can pass. Participating in activities we enjoy, however, causes us to experience time at an accelerated rate.

Author and lecturer Dr. Deepak Chopra tells the story of six German coal miners who were trapped in a cave-in. They knew that the limited air supply gave them finite hours to live. Only one of the miners had a watch, and he told the others he’d call out the time every hour. Trying to spare his comrades worry, he instead called out the time every two hours – leading them to believe that only half as much time had passed. When the miners were rescued two days later, all were found alive – except the man with the watch.

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What the hands of a clock tell us means nothing to what we tell ourselves. By controlling our perception of time, we control time. Real time, the time that matters, cannot be dictated by a clock or decreed by a calendar.

We are totally responsible not only for what we do with our time, but for what we allow time to do to us. We cause our own hurry and worry, our own hustle and woe.

Poet Nguyen Tru wrote: “There are 36,000 days to a life. And I have wasted 16,000 on nothing. Please tell God to set back his clock.”

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It’s not the clocks that need to be changed – it’s us. We have as much or as little time as we think we have.

Who’s telling you what time it is?

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