Time and Money
July 29, 2011 § 6 Comments
This picture is from early this summer, back when it seemed as if the cold and rain would never relent.
As a writer, I’m loathe to believe that any picture is worth 1,000 words. A hundred or two, maybe. But 1,000? Give me a break. Still, like most pictures, there’s a story to this one. And to me, that story is time.
First, look at me (the guy in the center, if you couldn’t tell). There’s something about my posture that makes me look old and hunched. Part of it is probably the way my pants are hanging off my bony ass; the other part might be the slight stoop in my shoulders. Against this, the youth gathered around me. To me, this photo is a reminder that life is a temporal game and that the shadow of mortality is never a distant companion.
And then there’s the backstory, which is rather simple and all-too-common. On the morning this picture was taken, I was feeling pressed for time. I’d rushed through chores, rushed through breakfast, and was preparing to rush to my office, where I’d rush through work, so that I might rush through chores again, and then dinner. And so on. Hell, I probably would’ve ended up rushing through sleep. But the boys really wanted to go exploring in the woods. This is something they want with great frequency and varying degrees of urgency, and on this morning my habit of refusing seemed particularly acute. So I relented, and we walked into the woods, where we spent the next hour or so prowling through the forest understory. Mostly, we looked for things to eat, but we also worked on our tree identification skills. We probably had a stick battle of sorts, but I’m not sure. That might have been on another walk. In any case, I returned from our foray in far more relaxed state of mind and body than when I embarked upon it, and that sense of relaxation stayed with me for the remainder of the day.
I have come to believe that one of the most damaging lies our culture tells itself is that “time is money.” That so many of us accept this as truth is immensely convenient for the industries supplying the under-priced crap filling our lives. If time is money, what is the value of an hour-long walk in the woods with my sons? If time is money, what is the value of a carefully tended garden, or the hats that Penny knit and which are perched on Rye’s head and mine? Are these things worth no more than whatever hourly wage rate we assign ourselves?
Money, as I am coming to learn, is merely an illusion. It is not value; it’s a symbol of value, and even it’s symbolic value is an artifice of our collective faith. In other words, money’s only real value is that we all agree it has value.
But time? Time is everything. In essence, time is life. It is limited for us all, a truth made sharper by the fact that none of us know how limited it will prove to be.
The other truth is this: It’s not just that “time is money” is a lie. Because when you really unpack it, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that money itself is a lie. And that your time is worth whatever you decide.