The concept of time

Synopsis : Time means different thing to different people. Some value it while others do not. The blog focuses on what is important in life that people should prioritize and spend more time on.

The concept of timetime-management-system-needed-in-business

Source : Google photo

Do you often think how time passes for you either too quickly or slowly? Do you often feel that you want to do so many things but have so little time to do it? What is time after all? Why it means different things to different people? Why some value it while others don’t?

These are the questions that come to my mind when I write about the concept of time which after all is the invention of man. The nature is timeless and the animal kingdom runs on what is called the rhythm of nature. They procreate according to the season and the availability of food, water and the urgency to their survival because they depend on the nature. But we as humans have always tried to control the nature through inventions that gave us greater flexibility of living in harsh climates and situations.

We do not depend on the nature to provide us food, shelter and clothing as our ancestors did long ago and have learned to grow our food even under artificial environment in hydroponic farms and on large commercial farms on a massive scale using technology and machines that were unthinkable to our ancestors who depended on the weather and rain to grow their food using primitive tools.

We have constantly tried to be more efficient in the production of everything we need for our survival including robotics although it is questionable if indeed it is necessary to do away with human intervention just to be more efficient.

This brings us to the question of what is the meaning of time and why we are always trying to save it and for what purpose? We see everyday  people always rushing to somewhere , running and speeding to get to some place looking constantly at their watches as if every second counts.

We see thousands of people all very self-absorbed walking fast while talking on their cell phones and unmindful of others whom they disturb by their loud phone conversations. We see all the time how Americans talk while munching on their sandwich while briskly walking within their offices or other places as if time is running away from them and they must use every second of it .

But we also know that time means different things to different people. When we were in Mali , we found a British woman  near the bush taxi station who was practically in tears because the taxi man kept her waiting the whole day saying that he will leave any time. She could not go anywhere even to a bathroom if that was available fearing that they will leave without her if she was gone for a minute.

I said to her not to worry. The bush taxi leaves only when it is full and will wait whole day for it .Time means nothing to people here so one must not be in a hurry and should not believe them when they say they will leave any time. So we brought her home where she had cold clean water to drink and rest for a while.

When we brought her back to the taxi stand, sure enough the taxi man was still waiting. She was not used to it in her country where everything runs on time and where you can miss a bus or a train if you are late by just one minute.

In Japan you can set your watch to an exact time and will see the train gliding in. In some countries like in the USA people will tell you that you are five minutes late and kept them waiting which they do not like. So we live in a world that is very time conscious in certain parts whereas others like in Mali or in the Kalahari they have all the time and are quite relaxed about it.

In some countries they punish you if you are late going to your office or workplace so you will see the time clocks where you have to insert a card to register the exact time you arrive and leave while in other countries people take a more relaxed attitude. This time consciousness or the relaxed attitude then becomes a part of their culture.

I live in Asia where often people keep you waiting for them because they do not take time seriously but get very upset if you do the same to them. I have seen this in hospitals where unfortunately we go once in a while where the doctors often show up 30 minutes or an hour late keeping many patients waiting for them but they get very upset if the patient is late a few minutes suggesting that their time is more valuable than others. This may be also cultural because they seldom apologize for such behavior.

I used to work for the UN when they required me to write lengthy reports etc. that had to be always completed by a deadline so I had this habit of doing what was required of me ahead of time instead of waiting until the last minute.

But I am good at the time management which I learned through my long experience while others complain because they can’t manage their time well and suffer immense pressure and its consequences at their work place.

The daily grind of commuting a long distance using public transport to get to the office or workplace  makes people tired and anxious and fretful everyday which takes its toll on their physical and mental health because they live under time pressure. Some bring their work home where they keep on typing and writing the report that is due so the family life suffers in the end.

Then I see the Africans sitting under the baobab tree calmly drinking their tea and having a smoke of their foul tobacco while chatting about their farm or the rain that does not come. They are never in a hurry and take it easy. If you go to their village, you will be asked to wait under a tree while someone goes to search for the village chief. When he comes and asks you the purpose of your visit, only then he gives orders to prepare a hut for you. Women then prepare hot water for you to wash and prepare your meal. After you are all settled in and have washed and eaten the meal, the village chief will receive you and only then you get down to the business at hand. It is all very relaxed and congenial.

So time means different things to different people and is tied to their culture. I also noticed the  mañana habit in some cultures where everything is put away for another day. This habit is also known as procrastination. They will promise you the whole world but never get to keep the promise. You will be in deep trouble if you take them seriously and expect them to do what they promise.

I had a slide projector that needed repair in Mostaganem, Algeria so I brought it to the shop where the fellow said that he will fix it in a week so not knowing their culture I believed in him and went back after a week. It was not done. He kept on promising to fix it for six months or so but each time said the same thing. He always promised to do it in a week. May be his week was six month-long but it made me filled with frustration because I expected him to mean what he said.

When I was in high school, we were taught to learn to manage our time because the high school exams were a Board exam where the examination started promptly at 7 am and ended exactly at 10 am giving us three hours to answer 10 to 12 questions. So our teachers told us all to wear a watch and synchronize it or bring a clock and keep it in front. We were supposed to answer all the required questions in the time given to us and leave at least 15 to 20 minutes for a thorough review of our answers just in case we made a mistake here or there.

I was very surprised when I took the GRE exam in California one day that was required by the college so I went to the exam center in Lompoc. There the invigilator stood with a stop watch in his hand and told us when to turn our page to answer the next question. Americans do not like to leave it to the examinee to work at his own pace and decide for himself like we were used to in India so I was quite surprised. I still think our system of learning to manage time early in high school was the right way because it required us to be responsible.

Now I look back and reflect on the importance of time as propounded by the western culture and the easy-going way people treat time elsewhere and think that the African way of making you feel comfortable before any serious business talk is a good way and the job gets done under pleasant conditions often with positive results although some Africans do not take others seriously.

When I asked the villagers to build huts for us because we had to often work in their village, they mobilized the whole village and built for us several round houses. It was an enormous effort on their part but they did it except that the huts were never occupied by our staff. The project manager who was a Malian said that there should be a feast to show our appreciation for the effort of the villagers before we could occupy the huts but never managed to prepare the feast or ask someone to do it. He later died in a road accident. This was a classic case of procrastination in its extreme.

I do not appreciate anyone wasting my time because I do not waste anyone’s time. So when a person shows a callous attitude toward others and does not do what he promises to do then it can be very annoying like that fellow in Mostaganem. It also shows the character of that person. If he is a classic procrastinator and never keeps his promise and is always late for anything then people start to mistrust him. Such a person does not succeed in anything he does because he lacks the discipline to do the job.

They say that army is the best place to shape up a lazy fellow really fast. There the recruits are all homogenized in a brutal way by first shaving off their locks and beards and then put them through really rough boot camp where for every mistake they are punished with push-ups or other forms of punishment. They are punished if they are late by a few minutes, if they can’t wake up at 4 am precisely, if their beds are not made up according to regulations, if they can’t finish their meals in the time provided etc. But a softer approach as taught by our teachers to manage our time is a better way because it made us responsible.

But the most busy person also retires one day when he does not have to rush to his office and rush to meetings or rush to prepare reports. Then he starts to realize how much he has missed the finer things in his life-like forming a bond with his loved ones, like getting to know his neighbors, like fishing in a mountain stream while smoking his amphora pipe, like watching the beautiful sunrise or sunset and see how his children grew up and one day left home . He was so busy that he never had time for any of the fine things in life.

Some people are so married to their career that they overlook what is more important in their life until it is too late. They earn money, drive fancy cars and morosely watch evening news on their 60 inch curved TV munching on sandwich because the wife has divorced him and the kids have left to live their own life elsewhere.

So if you are the type that always looks at his watch then ask yourself this simple question. Was it worth it? What is time anyway if not spent wisely on things that matter in life-like your family, your kids, your grand kids, your passion which could be writing or reading or doing the things you always wanted but never found the time to do it. Could you at the end of your life say honestly that you spent your time well on this earth? If you did then I salute you.

 

Note :  My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese  languages at the following links as well as my biography:

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Anil’s biography in English.

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7 thoughts on “The concept of time

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