"The secret to success," says a businessman being handed an award in a picture and quoted in my newspaper today, "is knowing how to handle time."
That's bad news for me if it's true because, I don't know how to handle time; time handles me.
It doesn't pay to get thinking much about time because it's depressing. You can't put your finger on it. Time has no beginning we can imagine and no end we can conceive of. Time is endless in both directions -- behind us and in front of us.
I don't know why it's so difficult for a person to change his or her habits regarding time. People who are late are always late. People who get there early always get there early. I hate myself for it, but I'm usually late. A thousand times I've promised myself I'm going to change but I don't. It's like losing weight. Desire doesn't have any influence on my behavior. Being late is as much a part of me as being overweight.
The funny thing about that is I'm a nut about having my watch accurate to the second. I guess I want to know exactly how late I am. It's interesting to consider whether, here in the year 1997, we're cramming more life into our lives, thereby making life better, with all the time-saving machinery we have. We save time by traveling everywhere farther and faster than humans could before there were cars, trains and airplanes, but on the other hand, the hour we spend driving someplace is an hour we didn't used to spend at all because before there were cars we wouldn't have gone anywhere. It is quite possible that we waste more time with computers than computers save us.
It's paradoxical that we all want time to last. We hate it when time flies or when we don't know where it has gone, but on the other hand, we are always setting out to have a good time, and time passes more quickly during good times than bad. If we really wanted time to last longer, we'd set out to have a lousy time every day.
Quite often we're in a dilemma concerning the passage of time. While it's certainly true that we're usually reluctant to have it pass by too fast, there are times -- when we're in some unpleasant situations -- that it can't go past fast enough to suit us.
Time passes too slowly for me when I'm driving. In the summer, I make a three-hour drive twice a week that bores me to death. I'll sit there behind the wheel thinking, "Gad, I've got two more hours of this. I can't stand it." But then very often when I'm driving, I'll suddenly wake up to the fact that I'm almost where I'm going. I don't know what happened to the two hours of time. I can't remember thinking anything. I didn't see anything that registered in my brain. I'm pleased the drive is over but sad that I wasted those two hours not thinking.
Of all the bad deals human beings were dealt when they were created or developed, the need we have for six or seven hours of sleep once every 24 hours is the worst. Sleeping away 25 percent of our lives seems like a terrible waste of time, but there's no way to get around it. I suppose someday they'll come up with a pill that will make us sleep faster.
The little poem I first read when I was about 10 often comes to mind:
Backward, turn backward, O Time in your flight
Make me a child again just for tonight.
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