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Monday, December 19, 2011

There Aren't Enough Hours in a Day

Time is ticking away. But what is time? I have heard time described as an invention of man that keeps everything from happening all at once. Is time a new concept? No. Calendars and sundials have been around for thousands of years (at least 6000). Time measuring devices such as the water clock and the hourglass have been around since about 1500 B.C. Mechanical clocks have been around less than a thousand years.

We all learn about the concept of time and how to tell time at a very early age. We learn that time is finite. We learn that there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, and so on.
And yet we are all familiar with the concept: "There just aren't enough hours in a day?" Most of us have even uttered that phrase. Did our ancestors mess up way back when in decreeing that there would be just 24 hours in a day? If only they would have given us 25 hours, or maybe 30. Or why not just go ahead and put 50 hours in each day. There would be plenty of time to accomplish everything, and with the time left over we could relax or sleep. Think about how much happier and healthier we'd all be. (But somehow I suspect that even if we had 50 hours in a day we'd fill them up).
In case you are cursing the ground I walk on and calling me every name in the book, as well as thinking up a few new ones for the occasion, let me assure you that I understand we cannot arbitrarily "add" time to each day. One day is a length of time, one rotation of the earth, that has been fixed in the heavens. What or whom decided that is a topic I will leave for another "time." Sure, we could arbitrarily redefine the hour to give us more of them in each day, but to do so would require shortening that unit of time so they would all fit within one "day." We could give ourselves 48 hours in each day, but these new hours would only last 30 minutes, so at the end of the day we would not have any more time.

Albert Einstein theorized that time was relative, and if a person could travel at or near the speed of light, time would "slow down" for that person. Perhaps we will be able to resolve this conundrum once we achieve light-speed travel.

How did we come to fill, or over fill, these allotted hours each day? Long before we became adults, with its responsibilities, as well as its freedoms to add things to our schedule, we learned that there are just 24 hours in each day. We enter this game with full knowledge of the rules, and yet we pile activity and diversion, one on top of another, until we have more things to do each day than can be done in the passage of time given to us.
Why do we do this?
Are we afraid to leave an empty hour? Are we afraid to face the quiet stillness? Do we think we will be perceived or judged as lazy if we are not running full-tilt from one activity to the next? Or, is this just a habit we have picked up from our parents or those around us?

The only way out of this dilemma is to make the conscious decision to throw off the need to be busy all the time, and determine we are not going to allow the judgment of others to subvert our effort to regain control of our lives.
This radical reordering of our lives must involve an assessment of all the things that fill up the day, followed by an assignment of priorities. Those with the lowest priority would be cut from the schedule, unless you are comfortable with a willy-nilly approach of putting everything in a hat and drawing them randomly. Responsibilities, activities, and hobbies would be eliminated from our daily agenda until the target amount of free time is achieved. But then what would we do with the extra time? Sit and twiddle our thumbs? Watch those TV shows we DVRed but never got around to watching? Read those books we have been wanting to read? Or just sleep? The temptation will always be there, when we are presented with an extra hour in the day, to fill it with one of the myriad things we have sitting on the shelf just waiting for an empty slot. I would suggest making a commitment to filling that extra hour with sleep, or sitting and watching nature while enjoying a cup of coffee. Just choose something does not take a fixed amount of time to complete.

While this whole dialogue has been very interesting, and I would love to linger and discuss it further, I must go, for it is already noon and I have way too many things still to do today.
There just aren't enough hours in a day.

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