Wasting Time

Tonight, I walked the hilltop where I live, watching the fog roll in and surround me. Total darkness over the fields, no visible stars or moon, just the occasional porch-light or streetlight to remind me that I still live in the modern world.

I’m on the edge of the Peak District – any extreme weather, from rain to snow, cuts us off from the main village and creates a true ‘otherworld’ just for us. It’s beautiful. And it teaches you to keep good stores of food and firewood.

I was walking the dog, so keeping an eye on him, traffic and runners (fortunately infrequent), and generally being safe and aware. When I drive home down the same roads, I’m still watching the traffic and pedestrians, as a good driver. But how many of us ‘tune out’ at such times? We’re performing a necessary task that has to be done… before we know it, we’re a mile down the road and unsure how we got there.

I read a story years ago, of a schoolboy who somehow made a wish – and in exchange, gave up all the time that he wasted. Wasted time, that’s fine, I can give that away. But that time was then gone. Daydreaming at his desk one second; the next, the bell rings. The day goes past frenetically, because the time taken to pause and think counts as ‘wasted’. (I’ve no idea what this book was, and would be quite glad to find out!)

How badly do we need that ‘wasted’ time? How often are we actually at our most creative, when our minds are busy focusing on something else, something so automatic that we do it without thinking? Driving is a good example. We’re hyper-aware in one way, of the multitude of tasks involved in steering a ton of metal through countless obstacles; but in another, we’re pondering what to have for tea, what the radio DJ is saying, or worrying about what will happen when we get to our destination. If on the way to work, potentially hoping that the journey takes longer… while knowing that we need to get there on time.

This is transitional time. Physically and metaphorically demonstrated in stories by that fog that was growing around me this evening, as gateways to the Otherworld, we’re neither here nor there, not at source or destination. We’re on our way. But isn’t that what life is? It’s us that divides it into smaller segments. Humanity invented the concept of ‘pinning down’ time. The rest of the universe couldn’t care less. We put value on different slices of time – why?

We drive ourselves hard in life, with an emphasis always on doing, accomplishing, achieving. There’s never enough time to get everything done. Wasting time is bad.

But if we truly think about it, as demonstrated in the story above, how terrible would it be to lose that ‘wasted’ time? What’s so wrong about considering how valuable these transitional moments are? Time for rest, time for thought, time to breath a little. We’re in our own space, free to act as we like (within reason!) – how many of us shout at the radio, or sing along to it, or dream secret dreams, tell ourselves little stories? Ideas can flow freely.

If we take the conscious decision to take note of our creativity at such moments, we can accomplish a lot – and this inspiration is of personal value, not just fulfilling some managerial demand. We need the time to remember who we are, what’s important and what we’re doing. We can challenge ourselves, make something amazing… or just stop and breath.

We’re living our lives. If it’s valued, it’s not wasted.

What are you doing?

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