There must be thousands of proverbs and clichés about the value of time. Going back to ancient Rome, Marcus Aurelius considered to be one of Rome’s better leaders and also a famous Stoic philosopher famously wrote, “Do not live as though you have a thousand years.”
Time may be our least replenishable resource. We all know this instinctively but how we spend it does not reflect our awareness of the value of time. There are those “born free” people who do not have any goal or objective in life. They while away the hours which turn to days then to weeks and so on till one day it is all over. They are born happy and maybe they die happy. Perhaps they spend their lives without their bellies ever being full but their soul remains nourished by their blasé care free attitude to life. I know such people but I have never understood their philosophy of life. Many books have been written romanticising such people but I personally find very little glory in such lives lived. I believe that we have a purpose in life and as long as we occupy a space in this world, we are obliged to pay our rent. The rent is paid by our hard work and sharing the fruits of our success with those who are not so fortunate.
If time is our most valuable resource then it is essential for us to utilize this resource effectively. Hence the modern-day addiction to speed. I see some people who are perpetually in a hurried frenzy. They are never at ease; always in a hurry with no time for anyone else. They are at the constant mercy of a tight schedule living on the edge of exhaustion. I honestly cannot say that I know any such person to have achieved success. You cannot achieve success with a perpetual hectic, over-scheduled life burdened 24-7 with technology.
Successful people have a certain grace and elegance about them. They are not hassled or harried. There is a zen like calmness about them which also has a reassuring effect on those that come into contact with them. They seem to have an abundance of time to efficiently manage their work, be there for family and friends, indulge in recreation, find solace in solitude and contribute their share to the society in general. They are very much ambitious and goal oriented but seem to have a lazy feline demeanour. Obviously there are many different facets to the personality of these successful people but since this article is about the importance of time, I shall keep my views limited to the subject matter.
“It is a matter of shame that in the morning the birds should be awake earlier than you.” – Hazrat Abu Bakr.
Waking up at Fajr is one of the best ways to go about the day on your own terms. There is something very special about early mornings. For me, rising early and relishing the quiet solitude of dawn is without a doubt the best part of the day. Unscientific though it may sound but based on heuristics I feel that waking up at the crack of dawn gives me a disproportionate amount of extra time in the day to get so much more done. By the time the world has woken up I have already got a leg up on the day. I can go about the day with the luxury of knowing that I am not pushed for time and that I have things under control. I can therefore do things at a relaxed pace which takes away the stress and makes the day a lot more enjoyable. I am a great believer in the value of time and I find that working slowly without the stress of time scarcity, I get a lot more done. This is where the paradox lies. How can working slowly yield better results than working at a hectic pace? Exploring the benefits of “slowness”, I learned that this is not just my own little secret; there is a world- wide movement to promote slowness and for many people like me it is with the specific objective of getting the most out of our limited time. In fact, Slow is the New Fast.
Citta Slow (slow city) is an organization founded in Italy in 1999 to promote the concept of a slow lifestyle which is the antithesis of “hurry”. There are more than 200 cities worldwide which are now signed up as members of this organization. The agenda of this movement is to challenge the cult of living a hurried life.
Many years ago I visited the town of Bra located about thirty miles south of Turin in north Italy. Bra is a member of Citta Slow. At that time of my life I was a speedaholic. Though I have to admit that despite my years of genuine efforts, patience is still not my greatest virtue, in bygone days I was a full blown speed junkie. Ergo the thought of going to a town which had been crowned the head quarter city of Slow Food was anathema to me. However, for reasons beyond the scope of this article I found myself in Bra on a late summer evening. Dinner was uneventful and after a restful night’s sleep I went out exploring the town the next day after a typical Italian breakfast of a steaming cup of aromatic black coffee and a croissant. It was not long before this obscure town with a somewhat dubious name had cast its spell on me. Traffic is not allowed in most parts of this town. The cafes have a relaxed atmosphere of a place where time has come to a stop. Locals sit in these cafes on the sidewalks of narrow cobblestone lanes gossiping with friends. A few tourists roam around mesmerized by the idyllic setting of this town where old men sit for hours like statues on the stone benches and the air smells of lilac and lavender. This was an utterly surreal experience for me and I surrendered to the charm of “slowness”. It was then that I realized that slowness is not necessarily synonymous to inefficient or unproductive. It is just a far better way of achieving our goals without the wear and tear of speed. To quote Mahatma Gandhi, “There is more to life than increasing its speed”.