2012-03-04

Time Is Just A Concept

This BBC article on "the myth of the eight-hour sleep" has been making the rounds. (I'm too lazy to post hat-tips, but I first saw the article linked to on Chuck Rudd's blog and later it appeared on LewRockwell.com.)

A lot of people love stuff like this because their sensibilities are attracted to the idea that many of our problems stem from modern convenience. There seems to be a mechanism within some of us to want to say that "human beings were never meant to" do whatever modern thing they happen to dislike. Sometimes, this comes in the incarnation of a "primal" or "paleolithic" diet. Other times, it comes in the form of poking holes in the modern conceptualization of "appropriate" sleep.

Maybe it's just human nature to imagine a time in which people didn't have to do whatever it is we don't happen to like doing today. It seems as though everyone likes to hearken back to the good old days:


Of course, as the song says, Yesterday's for fools who try to remember / The good old days weren't always that much better.

From the day we're born, we're in a race against the clock. Our lives are a collection of points in time marking our memories and achievements. The less we do, the less we remember. We have a shockingly short amount of time in life, and precious few of us use that time to impact future generations meaningfully.

As I age, and as technology improves, I find myself drawn more and more powerfully to day planning and calendars. I used to consider the idea obsessive and ludicrous. What happened?

One day I got rid of my television set. Instantly, my day was filled with hours of time I never realized I had. What followed was a wealth of new creativity. I wrote songs, articles, short stories, unfinished novels, I increased my physical fitness regimen, I went out with friends, and so on. I had so much more time on my hands that I wanted to accomplish a little bit of everything all the time.

Of course, no matter how much additional time I had, my time was nonetheless limited. There are only twenty-four hours in a single day. So, a few years ago, I started organizing my time with the help of such applications as Google Calendar. Suddenly I was able to increase my output even further. The blog got better, the songs started flowing more easily, and I again increased my physical fitness regimen. On top of that, I had even more time to spend with friends.

The explanation is fairly obvious. When you keep close account of the time you have, you tend to waste far less of it than you did before. I recommend this to everyone.