July 26, 2011

There’s No Time for Anything…or is there?

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that nobody has time anymore.

It’s an obvious, accepted truism I see every day in newspapers, magazines, blogs, and websites, and hear every day on TV, radio, in casual conversations, and even in yoga classes*. A major portion of the booming self-help industry is dedicated to finding a way to carve some precious bit of time for oneself from the overburdened schedules we all live under these days**. Once upon a time, people had all kinds of free time to devote to themselves, and others. Now, however, in our fast-paced modern American society we’re all simply too busy.

Certainly, nobody has time to read—everybody from overburdened seventh graders to pundits lamenting the decline of the book industry can tell you that. A hundred years or so ago, we had a society made up of: a) people who spent their lives riding around in carriages and going to balls, b) people who wrote incredibly long novels about those people, and c) people who had nothing to do with their lives but sit around reading those incredibly long novels***. Those days, alas, are gone.

Practice yoga every day? Meditate? You gotta be kidding. This isn’t ancient India or Tibet—entire societies dedicated to making sure people were free to dedicate their lives to spiritual enrichment****. In modern-day America, we’re simply too busy.

Kids don’t have time to play anymore. People don’t even have time to sleep anymore. There’s no time to think anymore, for chrissake. We’re all so busy, so productive, have so much shit we have to do, that there’s just no time for anything*****.

I’d like to say more about it, but I just don’t have time.

* apparently, I find time for all that stuff.

** apparently people find time for all those self-help books, DVDs, seminars, etc., too.

*** and, oh yeah, there was also the vast majority of the population who worked far-more-than-eight-hour days, seven days a week, in factories, fields, and the households of the tiny leisure class those novels were written about, who couldn’t have read those books even if they had time or made enough money to buy them, because they were, almost invariably, illiterate.

**** then, sorry, but ancient India and Tibet weren’t anything like that, either.

***** which, admittedly, makes it a bit difficult to explain the five hours or more a day the average American spends in front of the TV, the exploding video games industry, those gigantic movie theaters packed with people (despite the precipitous decline in movie quality—I mean, seriously, have you seen any of the glorified-special-effects-trade-shows-masqerading-as-narrative-films at the multiplex this summer?), professional sports, the club scene, the expensive resorts ever-encroaching on the world’s dwindling unspoiled areas (soon to become overcrowded with people who are too busy to go on vacation—it’s hard to go anywhere in the world these days without running into fellow Americans who are just as busy as you are—necessitating the building of more), the yoga industry, including yoga retreats and yoga festivals cropping up like lotus flowers in the ever-busy muck, the enduring popularity of recreational drugs, and, perhaps most of all, the virtual world of computers and the internet, where you, dear reader, are spending the precious free time you simply don’t have at this very moment. Looking at history, and the rest of the world today, without the usual lenses of romanticism (note: practically everything people in yoga classes say about the past and/or how people live in other parts of the world is heavily skewed by romanticism) and the pride of those who’ve been raised to view hard-working as an essential descriptor in their ego-images, we might, in fact, find it more accurate to say that we as a society are in the unique position of having perhaps more free time than any other people in history******,

****** the result of which might be that we can’t figure out what to do with it, and this void perhaps makes us so anxious that we end up creating so many diversions that it leaves us overwhelmed, thus creating the illusion of not having any free time*******,

******* which is not, necessarily to say we have too much free time—I don’t think there is such a thing. There’s simply too much that’s worthwhile to do in life—for others, as well as for ourselves—that there really isn’t enough time for anyone to do more than an infinitesimal fraction of it. The trouble, perhaps, is that we waste so much time on activity that’s neither productive nor personally meaningful that we end up never getting around to the stuff that’s actually personally fulfilling********.

******** And, believe me, I’m including myself in that we—certainly, I’m in no position to judge anyone for whiling away the hours on Grand Theft Auto (were it not for atrocious eye-hand coordination, I might be doing the same). I don’t know—I don’t wanna know—how much time I waste on the internet—no, not writing for Elephant (or Yoga for Cynics), keeping informed about important news, or keeping in touch with people I love, but simply sitting here going from website to website—checking to see if anybody’s posted anything new and mildly amusing on Facebook since I last looked, five minutes ago, glancing at pictures of partially clothed celebrities whose movies I haven’t even seen (and probably wouldn’t wanna see), getting in angry arguments about politicians I can’t stand with people who can’t stand the politicians I can stand, watching youtube videos by people who fascinate me because—well, to tell the truth, they don’t really fascinate me…they just hold my interest enough that watching them is easier than getting up and doing something that requires a bit more energy—kinda like people I know who say they’re currently watching the fifth season of some HBO show on DVD, and I say “so it’s worth watching?” and they, five seasons and countless hours in, say “no, not really”*********.

********* The point, I think, is to work on being conscious of the time we have, and conscious in it. At the very least, it might be worth thinking about…if I can find the time…which, y’know, is hard to do, these days….

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