Sunday, October 13, 2013

Wasted







Beethoven, Wagner, Bach, and Mozart settled down day after day to the job in hand. They didn't waste time waiting for inspiration.

Ernest Newman

Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.

Marcus Aurelius


I have a few minutes to get in some writing, so I think I’ll take advantage of the time.  Right now I’m tired and I would love a quick nap.  But if I write for 15 minutes and rest for 15 minutes, then I will feel better later.  I will feel better physically because I took a nap, but I will feel better emotionally because I used this time wisely.
I was just in a thrift shop a few minutes ago.  I was hoping to chance upon some good books.  I quickly saw that there was nothing there that I wanted, but I kept looking anyway.  Then I started getting that sinking, ugly feeling I’ve had before when I knew that I was wasting my time.  I hate that feeling.  It makes me feel like, and I know this is a strong word, trash.  When I know I’m wasting time, I feel like trash.  Waste.  Trash.  There are the same.   But I’m not trash.  I feel like it, but I’m not.  What’s trash is the time I could be using more effectively.  It’s trash.  It’s been wasted.
I’m not sure why I’m thinking about this, but I’m recalling a day back in 1987 when I was walking around aimlessly and looking in thrift stores for books.  I even found some that I liked, but I knew in my heart of hearts that I wasn’t using my time well.  I knew I should have been studying or working on something.  It was around that time that I was asked to leave the teaching program.  It was a horrible time, because I wasn’t prepared.  I wasn’t working.  I was lost and drifting and aimless.  It was truly a horrible time.  By that age, 27, the Beatles were the heights of their careers.  Many of friends were working in real jobs.  I don’t even think I was working at the time.  At the age of 27, I was just lost and drifting and aimless.
This is not an exercise in the negative.  I’m not looking at that time with regret, but rather horror.   I wasted time.  It’s interesting that the word “wasted” is also a euphemism for murdered.  It’s also another word for being drunk or on drugs.  When someone is not in full possession of his or her faculties, we say he or she is wasted.  Wasted people are useless, at least while they’re wasted.  Wasted time is useless.  Wasted lives are useless, except perhaps as cautionary tales.  More than just about anything, I fear being a cautionary tale. 
Fortunately, there is always the possibility of redemption.  It is not too late.  I can change my life in an instant.  I can change my life this instant.  Maybe I had to waste all that time.  Maybe it was my failures as much as my successes that have made me a whole person.  I don’t know.  I just know that I don’t want any more waste in my life.  Not of my time, energy or Purpose.
(My 15 minutes was up five minutes ago, but I chose to keep writing.  I’m still tired, but I think I made a good choice.)

Part II
I’m finally home and I relaxed for a little while.  When I’m done, I’m going to study for a while and then look at some comic books.  When I’ve used my time well, I don’t mind looking at comic books or watching an old TV show on my computer.  That doesn’t feel like waste.  That feels like a reward.  In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck says that one way to create mental health is to delay our gratification.  I’m not very good at that and, I suspect, neither are a lot of people. 
What are television, movies, music, online games, watching sports, and comic books, but forms of entertainment?  They’re forms of gratification.  They feel good, at least for a while.  I’m not against any of those things.  The problem is that most of them go from being entertainments to addictions. When I don’t delay my gratification, not only do I waste my time, but also the things that were once gratifying become less and less so.  They become addictions.  I have time for entertainment once in a while, but I don’t have time for addictions because addictions take up all my time and energy. 
In his book The Pledge, Michael Masterson discusses how he marveled at the energy and focus of drug addicts who were single minded in the pursuit of their goal to get more drugs to feed their addictions.  I’d rather not be addicted to anything, but if I were, I’d choose to be addicted to my goal, because my goals all involve making the world a better place for as many people as possible. 
Rather than be addicted though, I’d prefer to be single minded, not just in pursuit of my Purpose, but in the purpose for my Purpose, which is love.  I’d prefer to be single minded in love.  St. Augustine said, “He who does much loves much.”  So I’d like to do all I can to do what I can.  I’d like to Get Started and Keep Going… and not let my time be wasted.