This is not written by me. It's an article that I came across at a watch repair shop several years ago. When I read it, I was quite moved. Apparently the article had an affect on a lot of people because the watch repair man had photo copies of the original article on hand and he shared one with me. I've kept the photo copy in my art room for years wondering how and where to share it. I've looked online to see if the article was published somewhere else that I could link to, but have not been able to find it. I tried to look up the writer and contact him for permission but I could not get in touch. If anyone knows him or has a contact please let me know. I would love if he would re-publish the article himself somewhere for all to read and where I could link to.
The Value of Time by Charley Reese
Originally featured in Contra Costa Times on December 26, 1997
Charley Reese is listed in the original article as a writer for King Features Syndicate Inc.
"When each human being is born God opens a checking account in his name and makes a single deposit. The currency is more valuable than gold or platinum. It's time.
Now this celestial life account operates quite differently from human checking accounts. There is only one deposit. The account holder can draw on it, but he cannot add to it. No deposits are allowed. No interest is paid.
The most intriguing thing about it is we are never allowed to know the balance in our accounts. We just write checks on it until suddenly one day we are notified that the balance is zero and the account is closed.
Time also differs from human currency, like dollars. When buying something with money, we can take it back and get a refund. When we spend time, there is no refund, no exchange, no credit. Whatever we spend our time on, we are stuck forever. Hours spent watching television, for example, cannot be reclaimed and relived. We have paid units of life for the view, and for better or worse that's what we get - memories of sitcoms or ball games.
Money can be invested and we can earn more money but time cannot. No matter what we do we cannot increase the balance in our life account by a single second. We can only draw it down. Even if we do nothing but sit in a corner and start out the window, we are spending time units and drawing down our balance,
Contrary to popular and profitable misconceptions, we cannot manage or save time. No matter what we do it flows away at the same steady inexorable rate. All we can do is choose what activities we will pursue during the flow of our time units. We can control ourselves but not time.
Time units do share one thing in common with money. If we have $1 billion, then $1 seems insignificant. This psychological phenomenon has a name in economics jargon 101, but I can't recall it. It just means that the more we have of something, the less valuable each individual unit seems. And "seems" is the key word, for we are talking about perception not reality.
When we are young and imagine that we have a large balance in our life account, then time doesn't seem all that valuable. We perceive that we have so much of it, we don't think twice about idling away or even wish fretfully that it would pass more quickly.
It's only later, when our account has been drawn down a good bit and when we have seen other people's accounts closed, that in retrospect we sometimes regret the choices we made.
The samurai, that stern warrior class that ruled Japan for centuries, had a solution for the problem of discounting the value of time. The samurai would begin his day meditating on his own death. He would even visualize all the ways he could die that very day.
That may sound morbid but it's really a jolly good idea. This crazy, materialistic world is obsessed with planning - daily plans, weekly plans, five-year plans, retirement plans. The tricky thing about plans is that they lead you to assume that you will be around to complete them, though in fact, at any given moment, we don't know if the balance in our life account is five minutes or five years.
Visualizing our own death to start the day will clear away the false assumption that we have all the time in the world. It would help us to appreciate the day we have. It spurs us to decide what is really important and what isn't. It's a reminder that sharing money is far less generous than sharing time because money is replenishable, but time is not.
Funny thing is, children know this while most adults don't."