wasting time

Here are the two theories:

“Wasting Time.” What does that mean? Clearly individual, but also time and place specific. And it has an evolving meaning, in society as well as in ourselves. What I viewed as wasting time a few years ago might be something that I find incredibly valuable now, and the same with society in general.

This is something I think of often (is that, in itself, a waste of time?). I do think that what modern life (and, specifically, this crazy fast-paced techno global life) has given us is a bazillion new ways to waste time. The typical scenario that happens probably to every single person who has a computer… you log on to do one thing and end up doing a million others, or not doing anything really, other than hop from one site to another, letting yourself go in the flow of information and links.

I do subscribe to the theory that we need down time in order to process, to allow our synapses to fire in unexpected ways, to open ourselves to new thoughts, new realms, new creative (or not so) ways of thinking. To be simplistic, one could say that unless we are online to do something purely productive (like, say, working on a paper for school, paying bills, etc.) then we are filling our days with the unnecessary and taking away from what really matters.

But what I’m starting to believe—perhaps out of optimistic hope—is that we cannot quantify what is valuable and what is not, what moments are ripe for new thought and new paths for our minds and ourselves to take, just by the surface activity. Sometimes out of the mundane comes the magnificent. Einstein may have been doodling on his ledger when he had some of his most brilliant theoretical breakthroughs, so who is to say that someone  might be scrolling through facebook, or reading about some obscure ritual in tribal warfare that they came across when looking for links to something totally different, might well let their mind drift to something totally unexpected.

Does contemplative time have to come while one is sitting in a field looking at the sky, in a library chair reading, or can it come while zapping aliens in a video game or watching a youtube video? For me? The latter is unlikely, for I am of a certain age where my mind just can’t multitask like that, but I can, for example, cook or knit, or walk or read and at the same time mull over many different things that may lead to inspiration, exploration, etc. I really am convinced that my kids, and your kids, and all of the kids who were raised in this newly rearranged way of thought and living, are adapting and thriving and are just as capable, if not moreso, of creating brilliance, even if they never actually stop to think in the traditional way we have in mind of contemplation.

That does not mean I still think time alone, and one spent in that lovely hazy trance which one can enter only upon turning off the world for a time, minimizing distraction, is no longer important. It is. But our definitions of what it means to waste time should be, perhaps, kept to ourselves, for we can no longer (or perhaps never really could) judge another’s time spent or thoughts thought. Ahem. 😉


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