We are all constantly stressed about time. You have a major deadline for a project at work, and the stress is making you grouchy. Or you’re upset that you’re single because your biological clock is ticking and you want to have a family. Or you’re cursing at traffic because you have to pick up your child at school and you’re already late.
So why isn’t your dog or cat losing sleep over any of this? No other life-form responds to the ticking of a clock or counts the days, months or years like we humans do. As you’ve noticed, animals simply respond to events. Hungry? Let’s eat. Dark? Let’s sleep. It’s a way of living that has more than a little appeal. Some days I so envy our dogs’ contentment.
Even within our own species, human cultures differ widely in their views of time. Countries in the West place such a premium on meetings that begin and end “on time.”
I’ve been in meetings in the United States where everyone (myself included) starts to put away their papers and gets ready to leave as the scheduled countdown approaches, even if a few more minutes might lead to a big breakthrough.
By contrast, in the Middle East and Latin America events tend to have a loosely defined start time and continue for as long as they seem worthwhile. If a meeting’s going well, it’ll get as much time as it needs. Similarly, when planning a social gathering friends might agree to meet after work, but some will show up at 7:00, some at 8:00 and some at 11:00, and no one will be offended or stressed because everyone will enjoy the company of whoever is at the event as long as they’re there.
In studying world cultures I have learned that events-based cultures are more common globally than clock-based cultures. While they may seem laid back in comparison to their efficiency-focused Western counterparts, business people in many parts of Latin America, the Middle East, southern Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and Africa are extremely adept at establishing social connections and working together. Often I find these events-based cultures much happier in their inner being because they are not stressed out by time.
While I surely don’t advocate being late, slack or lazy, I would ask you to consider the merits of being the master of the task instead of being the slave of the clock.
In studying religious cultures, I have admired the “timelessness” for which Buddhism is the best known. Clocks will tick and events will come and go, but a Buddhist stays fully focused in the present moment. This state of timelessness is fundamental to reaching Nirvana. The ability to live entirely in the present moment offers the peacefulness of living in an eternal paradise, especially when you realize that while eternity is commonly understood to be a very long time, it really is the absence of time. It is timelessness.
Time as we understand it plays a big role in creating and perpetuating unhappiness. Time is experienced very differently across human cultures. There may be a better way to deal with time than what we’re used to.
The time is now. There will never be any other time. Any other interpretation of time is just a detour into illusion.
Will you spend today thinking about yesterday? Will you spend today thinking about tomorrow? Or will you spend every day experiencing that day and everything it has to offer? Life is now and it’s amazing!