2018-12-25

More Than Carpe Diem


A long while back, I read an article about a man who realized that he did not have enough time left in his life to listen to all the album in his record collection. He did have a rather large record collection, but not so large that he did not know what he owned. He wasn't collecting for the sake of collecting. He was buying albums that he was legitimately interested in listening to. It just so happened that he reached middle age and realized that there were many records in his collection that he would never hear a second time.

In part, he meant this as an exposition on focusing on what you love. In part, he meant it as a commentary on the sheer volume of music out there, and how most of it is destined for obscurity. In part, he meant it as an expression of the realization that life is so very short.

Children, with their whole lives ahead of them, can afford to while away some of their time. For them, it's not really "whiling away," anyway, since children learn by playing, after all. For adults whose life path is essentially set, however, time is of the essence. There are only so many performance reviews before you have to give up on ever getting that big promotion. There are only so many years to start saving for your child's education, or for your own retirement. There are only so many summers to be spent climbing Kilimanjaro or visiting the Louvre. You don't have to do it this year; but you only have so many years, and if you don't plan on doing it during one of those years, at least, you'll never do it at all.

It takes time to lose weight and get in shape, time to get yourself "beach-ready," time to get dressed up and go to a fancy party. If you don't start today, how much time will you have? Do you think you'll be "beach-ready" when you're 65 years old, no matter how good of shape you're in? You need to be fit today to get to the beach tomorrow. You need to train today to run a marathon next year. You need to apply now if you want to get a passport for this summer.

The book I'm reading now is seven-hundred pages long. I can read fairly quickly, but it still takes time to read seven-hundred pages. If you want to read the great literature, you need to get started. If you're as old as I am, it is already likely that there is some great literature you'll never have the chance to read, no matter how fast you read. And if you want to write a book one day, suffice it to say that it takes longer to write seven-hundred pages than it does to read them; longer still to have them edited; and longer yet again to have them published -- if your first attempt is even good enough to be published!

To strum a few chords on the guitar or to plink away on the piano doesn't take all that much time. It does take months, though. And to play with any degree of pleasantness, you'll have to study for a couple of years. As for mastery, you had better be in it for decades. How many decades do you have left? If you've ever dreamed to learning to play an instrument, you ought to start now.

As for love, the time is simply now. Now or never. You offer your love to those who might want it today, or you waste your years away loving no one. Every day spent without love is a day never to be regained, and love itself evolves as we age, going from one phase to another. A truly mature love requires as much time as anything else, and probably more.

You may have supposed that my purpose in writing this is merely to say carpe diem. Sure, seize the day, that's a good idea. But my real point is to spend your time wisely. Invest in the things that you want to say that you did. If you want to say that you made great art, or achieved great work, or loved passionately, then do those things. Do them now. Invest yourself now.

Do not spend any more time "binge-watching" television programs. Do not waste any more time scrolling mindlessly through social media. Do not lose your hours to soap operas and other such time-thieves. Imagine how embarrassed you will feel on your death bed when you realize that the time you invested in The Sopranos could have taken you to The Matterhorn, or that the time you spent on Facebook could have enabled you to retire in the tropics, if only you had invested yourself a little differently.