A four-day work week leaves you with a lot of time on your hands. Especially when you’re older, the kids are grown and you don’t play golf anymore. You used to play golf and your gripe was that it took too much time. Now time is what you have, but golf has lost its allure.
You used to think free time is what human beings fought for. But then technology came along to supposedly give us more of it, but all it really did was make us lonelier and busier.
There was a time when you got to your office and spent a half-hour or so opening your mail. These days, you spend half your day deleting worthless e-mails. “Progress” has made it possible (and cheap) to trade a dozen messages setting up a lunch date. Communication is easier than ever, so easy that we spend half our days communicating about communicating — getting to know ourselves and others less and less in the process. This must be what humans want, you think to yourself: pretending to seek out time-saving marvels which only take up more time.
A friend told you the other day about getting one of those brand new barbecue gizmos (the kind where you feed-it-and-forget-it). “It’s beautiful,” he beamed, even as you tried to disguise your contempt. “Unless you suffer for your art, what’s the point?” you smiled through clenched teeth. He wants the finished product, not the joy of actually making it. Good barbecue demands time, and at least one night’s lost sleep, as you patiently explain. But he wasn’t listening. He’s a younger fellow, with a younger family, and still thinks life is about saving time.
You haven’t owned a car for years now, so this means you spend a lot of time getting to places. “You’re not a poor man,” your wife says. “Why don’t you buy a small car to get you places?” But she doesn’t understand either.
Some days you walk the thirty minutes or so to your favorite coffee shop and order a cappuccino. They urge you to “order on-line” and skip the wait but they are fools who think time is something to be saved. Sometimes, you finish your cappuccino at your favorite coffee house, and then walk a few blocks to another coffee house for another one. You are secretly in love with one of the baristas there, but you stay absolutely poker-faced as you order, never letting her know how you feel. Playing out this melodrama in your head takes a good five minutes every time, and it is time well spent.
Sometimes, on one of your long walks, you call your mother on a device that makes her sound like she’s standing five feet from you. “You sound great,” you tell her. “So do you, son,” she exclaims, but both of you know the same wonders bringing you together are also what have kept you apart.
Out of the blue last month, due to the wonders of the internet, your old college roommate got in touch with you, You whiled away the morning, the two of you, and talked of many things, Two old goats with time on their hands, but who also are running out of it.
But mostly you talked of a character you both knew long ago. David his name was, and he had made quite an impression on a couple of kids. He was an old man at 18; smoked a pipe in your freshman dorm; listened to Bach fugues and was reading Kierkegaard and Heidegger in high school. Quite a site with his mane and meerschaum, expounding on Keats and Gregorian chants when the rest of us were throwing up cheap beer and beating off to Barbi Benton.
As you were re-treading old times, your gazes – blurred by time and age – remembered this renaissance man, and wondered what the world had made of him. Poet? Philosopher? Teacher? All of the above? No, said your new-found old friend: he had become a musician by trade, and a house painter by default. Never held a steady job in his life – which was just the way he wanted it. Spent his days thinking and dreaming and philosophizing…which is just how he had presented himself so many decades earlier. One of a kind David was, basso profundo in voice and intellect, he died broke, without a family – on the very day your roommate reached out, enabled by the internet, to commingle your three worlds once again.
You like to think David understood that time is not something to be saved or spent, it is simply to be enjoyed,. You imagine him pondering the abyss from an early age, or from a rung of a painter’s ladder.
He would’ve been amused by these musings, and would’ve laughed (one imagines) at all the time we’ve wasted, propelled by devices we don’t need, thinking of things that don’t matter.
We are on Earth to fart around and don’t let anybody tell you any different.