Our relationship to time

What kind of approach to time does this moment call for?

Our relationship to time
Photo by Fausto García-Menéndez / Unsplash

For most of my life, I've thought of time as a resource to be used or an input to be optimized. It is the space I use to fulfill my plans and the thing I convince myself I must control.

In his book, Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver Burkeman suggests that our complicated relationship to time started when we shifted our understanding of time as simply “the stuff life was made of,” as it was understood in the medieval era, to a resource to be used, which then led us to feel all kinds of pressure about if we were using it well.

Burkeman hints – rather unhelpfully — that instead of using time, we might consider letting time use us. When time is not ours to use but ours to inhabit, we might let ourselves be carried forward simply by the invitations of circumstance. That sounds nice, but what about all of us who have jobs and kids and errands and clients? I think our mistake with time is not that we consider it a resource, but rather that we apply this time-as-a-resource model into the moments like a lazy Saturday morning or time with our kids, which are ill-suited for such an approach.

When we ask ourselves, what kind of approach to time does this moment call for, we're able to rise to the occasion and find ourselves better able to experience what's before us.