The Paradox That Is Time


Time has to be one of the most paradoxical things that we all have an intimate relationship with.  On one hand, it has tremendous value as nothing can be done or achieved without it.  Yet, we struggle to truly understand and leverage its value as we do not consider it scarce.  The two minutes we kill by watching a cat video is soon replaced by two more.  How do we harness this resource? 

We all know that we get more value from the hour before a deadline than the hour after it. But! Not so simple!  Much like other commodities such as gold and oil, time is truly fungible.  A minute spent waiting for your final grade at the university of Shanghai, China lasts exactly as long as 60 seconds spent gazing at the Teletower on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany.  So why the difference?  And how do we ensure that we make the most out of our time?

The interesting thing is that we almost always initially and erroneously feel that we have infinite time (and therefore do not value it), until we are faced with the reality that we don’t.

Managing Our Relationship With Time

I am convinced that the formula to a life worth living is dependent on our relationship with time.  If we distill our thoughts and actions down to their rawest of motivations, we see how each moment was viewed either as a precious resource, or a painful reminder of our potential that we need to escape from.  How we consistently treat these little packages of time over our years lead to drastically different outcomes. 

Oscar Wilde doesn’t think we can kill time without injuring eternity.  I hope we heed his advice.

What If Life Was a Gamble?

Caravaggio, The Cardsharps. c.1594

Gambling is perceived to be a vice in most cultures.  The yearning to obtain material gain by short-circuiting good ole work ethic does not sit well in societies today.  Gambling requires that we put something valuable (usually our hard-earned currency) at risk, for a swift in-kind reward.  A ‘win’ allows us access to fruits of labour which is not our own, and affords us a thrill that is unlike any other.  Gambling can be and often is extremely addictive.

So why the negative vibe surrounding the act of gambling?  It is commonplace to hear of how fortunes have been lost and lives ruined due to the act of gambling.  While we are often filled with euphoria when we hit the proverbial jackpot, losing your mortgage payment on the blackjack table brings on shame and anger in a withering way.  Most have been burned before, and the scars cause us to swear off gambling as a means of attaining what we deeply (or not so deeply) desire.  We rarely hear respected members of our society extol the joys of gambling, and as a whole, we as a tribe follow suit.

To put it broadly, societies view gambling as bad because it is seen as irresponsible stewardship of the resources at our disposal.  Pursuits of shortcuts is also perceived by many as a form of laziness.  Fruits of labour they are called, not fruits of the jackpot.

An Interesting Hypothetical

What if however, we found ourselves in a parallel universe. 

Imagine if we were handed a bag of twenty four blue gambling chips every morning. These chips can only be deployed within the day, but winnings begotten by gambling with these expiring chips do not expire. Chips won are not blue, but are of a crimson tincture.  These beautiful red chips can be kept, spent, reinvested, and they never expire.  They are eternal.

Please keep imagining. Do these daily blue chips imbue titillating excitement or heavy dread as they sit in your hands?  You have to spend them in any case, but what do you spend them on?

In such a situation, our fundamental view of gambling should start to shift.  What would you do with that bag of blue chips you find on your bedside table each morning? Do you deploy them?  Is it considered gambling when what you lose was going to expire anyway?

Currently, most of us grab our chips and walk straight over to the restaurant section in the game hall.  We trade the chips in for a comfortable spot with a view and the tastiest morsels our blue chips can buy.  

Risking Those Blue Chips

Well, there are other avenues for those chips to be deployed in, and we know it.  

Curiously, the poker rooms and the roulette tables in our midst offer little attraction for the majority of us.  We steer clear even though the chips lost were going to be worthless anyway.  Why?

I do not know, but I am guessing that for some, the opportunity to place the blue chips at risk for a greater permanent reward does not even register.  For most, an arena that requires participants engage in ‘risky behaviour’, albeit for enviable gain, is just too intimidating an idea to entertain.  

We view ourselves as responsible actors within our own society’s well-worn social fabric, and we make our progress with the rest of the herd in as riskless a way as possible.  Due to this, these arenas where our expiring chips can be put to use remain foreign territory to us.

In case you haven’t yet figured it out, those blue chips I am referring to is the time we get to spend each day.

So why do we not try to hit home runs with the hours we get each day, or the weeks we get each year?   We live in the age of the Internet.  A blog, a song or a video channel has a reachable audience of the globe!

The ability to change our collective environment lies literally at our fingertips.  The opportunities that the modern world affords us are truly astounding.  We live in an era already unimaginable to people who are still alive and well today!  Our blue chips are worth so much more than they used to, it would be a shame not to go on an adventure to see what we could trade them for.

Some resources that I found helpful

%d bloggers like this: