The Preciousness of Time & The Concept of the Meaningful Life


I’ve just come off one hell of a week.  Each day’s work started by rising before 5am (at least once by 3am) and involved a rather large number of hours.  In the case of Monday’s work, I played a 7-foot-tall costume character and had to navigate the obstacle-laden innards of the New York Stock Exchange, even moving to the famous the platform to clap as we rang the opening bell.  Tuesday’s work meant a 4:15am departure to arrive by 5:48am for a calltime for the film The Smurfs.  The other days were on the television show White Collar doing crosses and finding time to rest as I started to succumb to my first cold in ages.

When my days are taken up by work, I am left with just a few hours left in my day to get other things done before I get to sleep.  Oftentimes it’s not a few hours but simply an hour, or maybe even just a few minutes.  In that precious amount of time, I have to cram things that are demanding on my life that I can’t do when I’m at work or asleep.  It is at these times I can become irritable and grumpy, or I might just spontaneously scream because I’m conflicted: I have two or more goals I need to achieve without enough time to achieve them both, at least comfortably.

It is in these extremely busy periods that my life becomes meaningful.  That is, nearly all of my minutes must work toward the achievement of my goals.  When I’m spending my time toward the achievement of my goals, I am relatively productive.  If I do not spend these precious minutes toward the achievement of my goals, I waste my time and I limit my ability to achieve my goals.  I am relatively unproductive.

It is this value that is high in general semantics: Productivity.  Productivity, as I will choose to define it, is progress toward the achievement of goals.  Time spent toward those achievements is meaningful; time not spent toward those achievements is wasteful.

This would mean that the concept of the meaningful life is the concept of spending all of one’s time on this planet while alive toward the achievement of one’s goals.

You probably don’t have much of a care to live a meaningful life when you are young.  When you are young, you have what seems like an unlimited amount of time to live.  Time does not bog you down.  However, as you get older, you slowly start to become more aware of the limit of your time.  Then you experience a death in the family, and you become all the more aware of the limits of time.  Or you have a near-death experience.  You quickly reshape your values.  You start to care for your productivity, your progress toward the achievement of your goals.  You realize if you waste your time, you won’t achieve your goals, but if you appreciate your time, you just might achieve them.

I have to live a relatively meaningful life because of the obvious limits of time my work puts on me.  My work often doesn’t tell me until the night before when I need to be up the next day.  My work doesn’t tell me when I’ll be done.  My work doesn’t tell me if I’ll be working tomorrow.  If it does, it doesn’t tell me when I’ll know if I’m working tomorrow.  My work may be on the same project or on a different project, and my being on a different project may take no sympathy on my having a good night’s rest.

I am forced to care how I appreciate my time, because if I don’t care, my goals can consume me.  I can drown in unlaundered clothes, lack of food at home, marathon goals missed, webmastering backlogs, and a number of other productivity problems.  I can mismanage others’ expectations about when I’ll be able to get something done for them, if at all.  I can invite social problems.  I can invite a whole heap of negative by not spending my time meaningfully.

This is but a taste for now of the concept of the meaningful life.  I have other things I need to be doing right now.  Other meaningful things.

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