Sunday, June 9, 2013

How to really tell time

Yesterday I stepped in front of a speeding car. The driver had a green light. The crosswalk was red. I had no business being in the road. I had nowhere important to be. I was just impatient. I'm lucky the driver chose to use his brakes, and I'm lucky the guy on the assembly line wasn't drunk when he installed them (must have been a Tuesday).

My life did not flash before my eyes, but this morning it occured to me what a foolish decision I'd made. And it is one that I and millions of others make each hour. Most of us frequently stepp into the road when we shouldn't and drive recklessly to destinations we don't care about. It is a problem of time. We are focused on what the clock says instead of what it means. That second hand is waving goodbye to seconds of your finite existence.

Because we don't process the clock's deeper meaning we consistently risk eternal oblivion (which last time I checked is a long time) to "save" more seconds. But we haven't saved anything at all. Those "saved" seconds do not reward us with additional life for worrying about punctuality. Compound interest isn't applicable to mortality.

When you weigh the time you spend dead vs. your concern about being on time to your dental appointment, it doesn't seem sensible to risk eternal oblivion by ricocheting through traffic to make that appointment. Yeah I know, different strokes and all that, but I have yet to meet someone who says he's always dreamed of skydiving into the Eternal Void in the name of tartar removal. Your dentist certainly wouldn't risk eternal oblivion to make sure he sees you on time.

We have phones with clocks, computers with clocks, cable boxes with clocks, microwaves with clocks, dashboards with clocks, not to mention watches and electronic devices that beep and vibrate to help us to tell time. Regretfully, these devices haven't taught us how to tell eternity.

To correct this, we should first bring back the hourglass, which offers a much starker message about the passage of time (plus you can tell women they can't spend the night until their bodies resemble the hourglass on the nightstand). Second thing we should do is change the faces on our watches. Forget about the Rolex logo (buying expensive watches doesn't buy you time). Each watch should feature a picture of a deathbed.

You shouldn't visualize those moments on your deathbed as a distant episode you can neatly control. You are on your deathbed right now. Drive carefully.

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