Not to sound pretentious, but I get this a lot: “How do you have the time to do all of these things??” Often I am tempted to reply with a half-snide “I make time. What do you do all day?”

Thing is, if you think about time, you may realize that it is the great common denominator. Everything can be broken down to time. It’s also the universal currency – most of the decisions we make affect our expenditure of time or arise from it. What some of us may not recognize, often enough, is that time is a precious, nonrenewable resource. It is limited, for each person, and it does run out. Try as you may, you cannot create, recycle, or plant more of it. I think if we understood this, we would live differently.

Maybe I am being too optimistic though.

Two thoughts on time. One is that your age should be determined not by how much you’ve lived, but by how much you still have left. Imagine! A 25-year old criminal on death row would be older than the 60-year old recreational diver. This is the flip side of the traditional approach to age. Think about it: when somebody is young, it means that they’re inexperienced, foolish, maybe, reckless..but it also means that they still have much ahead of them (as in “I’m still young…I have time…”). The reverse is true of our typical perception of being old: there is much behind you, and not much left ahead. “Oh…I’m too old now to (fill in the blank: get married? Pick up para-sailing? Learn how to use a computer?)”. But if you saw your age as what lies ahead instead of what lies behind, you would be forced to evaluate the choices you make more carefully, because actually, you don’t know how long you have left.

Let's do it!

The old saying goes, “Why do something today if you can put it off till tomorrow?”. I say, “Do it today, because there may not be a tomorrow for you (or me)”.

The other thought is this: I have always adhered vehemently to the credo “Life is short” (implicit: live it to the fullest), because at one point I realized that life will be short for me. That is, it will be too short to do and try and learn and taste and experience everything that I would like to do and try and learn…. Like, I was driving home from church yesterday thinking it would be great to pick up kayaking, especially because in the area where we live there are many waterways perfect for this water sport. And then I got to thinking about wall climbing and how I should join an outdoors climbing group to go on climbing trips with them, and then I remembered that I wanted to get more into composing, now that we have a keyboard at home…and the list goes on.

Honestly, I am stumped when others do less. I mean, what else is there to do except…stuff? That’s what living is. Doing stuff.

A few examples of time as the common denominator: I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and literature lately about living green, and car-free, and being independent, off the grid, having your own homestead, picking your seasonally-grown veggies for the winter months, etc., and I got to thinking. On the one hand, I salute the movement fully because it is based on another credo of mine: living deliberately; thinking about how you treat the land, and your bodies, and the people and nature around you. On the other hand, like any movement, it can consume you.

To market, to market...

Say you don’t want to leave a carbon footprint because you love nature and want your kids to love it and learn to value it. So you start recycling, saving all of your plastics and reusing glassware, getting rid of your car, using candles and solar power instead of electricity, and drying your clothes on cloth lines. You realize that many of the chemicals in your house are or can be harmful to you or the environment. You start mixing your own natural cleaners, soaps, makeup, detergents. Before you know it, all of your time is spent on doing this stuff, and none on going outside, actually being in nature, spending time with family and friends.

Or you want to be independent, food and electricity-wise. So you start a garden, dig a well, set up solar panels and wind turbines. You preserve your fruits and vegetables, you milk your cow, make your own yogurt, cheese, butter, cream. You grow your own organic fiber, weave or knit from it your own clothes. Yes, eventually you become fully independent, but the caveat is that while you’re independent from other people providing you with all of the necessities of life, you’re fully dependent on your own efforts to sustain you. You must toil day and night, like the people of yore, like all of civilization did for millenia before the industrial revolution radically altered the way humanity produced goods…And again, you have no time for the things that matter (to you).

Basically, these more radical expressions are only worth it if the process in and of itself is actually the way you’d prefer to spend your time. Or you can spend your time working to earn money to buy fresh fruits and vegetables any time of the year, or to pay for a car so you can go places and see the world.

The same can be said of child-rearing activities. For instance, you can work long hours, earn money to get your kid signed up for fancy-pancy classes, Montessori school, art, dance, football, fencing…or you can work part time and teach these things yourself (and learn them in the process too!). Bottom line again is: where do you want to spend your time? Doing what?

I got a George Washington Carver award in high school, and on it there’s a quote by him: “There’s no short cut to achievement”. This is true too. If you look at someone who is a tremendous painter or an exceptional mathematician, know that they put their time in, and got results. Others put that same time in to bar hopping, partying, smoking weed or just watching TV all day. The time is gone, either way, the return on it, though, varies greatly.

So the moral of the story is: go ye forth, and seize the day! Seriously. Do it.