The Law Of The Notorious Despot, Time

"If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality."

-- Benjamin Franklin

What is the great law of that notorious despot, Time? That every hour spent doing something is sixty minutes that isn't being spent doing something else. Most of us know the law as simple anxiety, the desire to be somewhere else, doing something that we imagine at the moment to be more exciting, more fun, more fulfilling. Successful advertisers of all stripes know how to manipulate the anxiety and to exacerbate it: "buy the luxury car, take the cruise, go in for the vacation, and you'll have all the fun you can ever dream of."

As Franklin observed, we should be most niggardly of our time, but it is time of which we tend to be the most spendthrift. We would all be mendicants if we handled our money the way we utilized our time, but then, it seems that money is ever scarce whereas time is ever plentiful.

How different would our life be if we turned off the television and reduced our time on the Internet? What if we didn't rush out to the movies or to the mall every weekend or every other weekend? Or if we worked five fewer hours a week and ate out less than we are accustomed? What if we threw away our cell phones and got rid of some of the other electronic junk in our house? ("Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things," Thoreau says in Walden Pond. "They are but improved means to an unimproved end." )

Consider what we would have time to do if we were more covetous of the minutes and hours of our life.

What A Saved Hour Each Day Translates To:

-- A three-mile walk.

-- A meticulous reading of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution.

-- A perusal of the Financial Times of London and the International Herald Tribune, both excellent newspapers.

-- A long conversation with a next-door neighbor or friend.

-- Work on one's garden or house.

-- Improving one's jump shot or golf swing or forehand and backhand.

-- Time helping a son or daughter with math or grammar.

-- Time in the kitchen experimenting with a new recipe or dish.

-- Reading and absorbing about a dozen excellent poems.

What An Hour Saved Each Day For A Year Translates To:

-- Sufficient time for piano or violin lessons.

-- Time to learn the basics of a martial art like kung-fu or tae kwon do.

-- Time for at least a dozen of the greatest novels (imagine devouring works like Madame Bovary, The Brothers Karamazov, Pride and Prejudice, Ulysses, Steppenwolf, The Trial, Nausea, and The Stranger in a single calendar year).

-- An opportnity to visit (or revisit) cities like London and Paris, Athens and Rome, Cairo and Istanbul.

-- The chance to perfect one's Spanish or French, Latin or Greek.

-- Time to read the speeches of every notable orator in western history, from Caesar to Churchill.

-- Sufficient time to take up a new hobby, such as hiking or skiing, running or cycling, skydiving or rollerblading.

-- Time to listen to and enjoy the music of Bach and Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky.

-- The chance to give voice to a favorite social cause.

-- Time to learn the basics of auto mechanics or carpentry.

-- Time to cobble together a web site that was the antithesis of commercial-saturated newscasts and dismal punditry.

-- The chance to teach an illiterate person how to read, the opportunity to serve meals in a soup kitchen.