In my last teaching position, one of my favourite units of work was on the theme of ‘Time.’ It was basically a philosophy unit, albeit at a pre-teen level, and it revolved around a number of questions to promote thought and discussion.
The opening question was: ‘What does time mean to you?’ Alongside this, children were provided with the following statements, based on the life of an average person who lives to be around 70 years old.
This opens up a lot of discussion about how we live our lives every day – how we use time and how we waste it. Social media is always a hot topic as the majority of the class admit to spending countless minutes on their phones; playing games, snap-chatting photos, messaging friends. When thinking about what time means to an individual person, we also consider that what time means to someone might actually depend upon the situation that they’re in.
Just consider the length of a solitary minute when you’re presenting to hundreds of people; writing the closing paragraph at the end of an exam; waiting for a blind date to arrive, or a test result from your doctor.
Time can mean different things to different people, in different situations. Its value increases the less we have of it.
But time can also mean very little, or even nothing at all. After all, it’s simply a concept to measure the passing of the days; a human invention which allows us to structure the moments of each day into neatly-packaged slots and categories.
Yet, how many of us become fixated on time? We watch the clock at our 9 to 5 jobs, focusing solely on ‘getting through the day.’ In our free time, we flick between housework, food and distractions, before looking at the clock at 10.00p.m and deciding that it’s time for bed. We use time as a readon to box up our happiness, opening it briefly at weekends and holidays. Worse still, we use it as a rod to beat ourselves when we see that we still haven’t met our soulmate, landed that job or seem to be developing lines in places where there were none before.
We’re forgetting that time is the film reel upon which our lives are played out, but it isn’t the movie itself. And if we focus all of our efforts in maintaining a pristine film reel, what will it matter in the end if the movie itself is blurred and dull, with a plot that isn’t going anywhere and a deeply unlikeable lead role?
I’d suggest that what really matters isn’t the amount of time that you have, it’s how you choose to use it. It’s the actions and words that you use each day, and the moments that you create or share with others as a result.
It’s the choice to smile at someone or offer help to a stranger; to say sorry, even if you think the other person was wrong; to forgive someone who has harmed you in some way; to say yes to something that terrifies you beyond belief.
Life your life. Be the movie. Pay attention.
Do this and even if your time runs out before you’re ready for it, at least you’ll know that your movie was well worth the watch.
What does time mean to you? Are you focusing on the film reel, or mindfully living each moment? Thoughts and comments welcome: