Those whom summer’s heat tortures yearn
for the full moon of autumn
Without even fearing the idea
That a hundred days of their life will then have passed forever.
Time often resembles a fine gold powder that we distractedly allow to slip through our fingers without ever realizing it. Put to good use, it is the shuttle we pass through the weft of our days to weave the fabric of a meaningful life. It is therefore essential to the quest for happiness that we be aware that time is our most precious commodity. This does not mean we should get rid of what is meaningful in life but rather of that which causes us to waste our life. As Seneca says: “It is not that we have so little time, but that we waste so much of it”.
Life is short. We always lose when we put essential things off. The years or hours remaining to us are like a precious substance that crumbles easily and can be frittered away without noticing. Despite its great value, time has no way of protecting itself, like a child that can be led away by any bystander.
For the active person, golden time is when he can create, build, accomplish, and devote himself to the welfare of others. For the contemplative, time allows him to look clearly into himself to understand his inner world and rediscover the essence of life. It is golden time that, despite the appearance of inactivity, allows him fully to appreciate the present moment and develop the inner qualities that will permit him to better help others. In a hermit’s day, every instant is a treasure and time is never wasted. In the silence of his hermitage, he becomes, in the words of Khalil Gibran, “a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music”.
The idle person talks of “killing time”. What a dreadful expression! Time becomes a long, flat, dreary line. This is leaden time; it weighs on the idler like a burden and cripples anyone who cannot tolerate waiting, delay, boredom, solitude, setbacks, or sometimes even life itself. Every passing moment aggravates his sense of imprisonment or dullness. For others, time is nothing more than the countdown to a death they fear or which they may even wish for when they tire of living. To paraphrase Herbert Spencer, the time they are unable to kill ends up killing them.
Experiencing time as painful and insipid, and feeling that we’ve done nothing at the end of the day, the end of the year, the end of life, reveals how unaware we remain of the potential for development we carry within us.
Matthieu Ricard (1946). A French Buddhist Monk. In 1972 he abandoned his scientific studies and dedicated himself to the practice of Tibetan Buddhism. Was the interpreter and personal secretary of his Holiness the Dalai Lama and a prominent figure in the diffusion of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. Fragment extract from the book: Happiness. 2008. New York: Warner Books.