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Published:May 21st, 2012 09:23 EST
Time Misspent is Lost Forever

Time Misspent is Lost Forever

By Ignatius Fernandez


"Time is what we want most but alas we use worst."   William Penn


Sitting by the bedside of a dying person is an education, if we choose to learn. He sees his life fleet past and he sighs. He regrets the many mistakes he committed; the many omissions and commissions in his life taunt him. In desperation he asks if he will have more time to live " perhaps a year, a month, a week or even a day. He will not be answered, because he knows the answer. He hopes to have a second chance, which will not come to him. He does not ask for money or food or any form of pleasure, but only for time. Can he have more of it? What he did not value when he had it, he values most as the end of life is near. The story is repeated time and again, but we refuse to learn from the education the dying man is trying to give us. Must life end, most often, in regrets?


Why does this happen? Because we do not pay for time " it is given to us free. If we had to pay $100 for every hour that we were given, we would use it better. Because God is generous He gives it to us at no charge and we abuse His goodness. We value our jobs, the house we own, our possessions, because we acquired them with difficulty. It cost us in some form. But time is free and we spend it without a sense of responsibility.


How can this attitude change?

1)  By recognizing that time wasted is lost forever and will not return, even if we repent our wastefulness. Nothing will reset the clock. When we ponder this fact, we will begin to attach more value to it.

2)  By planning our day and working to some form of a time- table " setting aside time for work, prayer, reading, exercise, entertainment and reaching out to others. Unless we distribute our time over different important activities, we will spend more time on what pleases us " like watching TV for hours with no positive results. When we work to a plan, results are quantifiable and we are content with ourselves.

3)  By prioritizing our tasks. When important tasks are to be done, we assign more time for them and less time for the less important ones. Ranking tasks helps in managing time better.

4)  By reviewing out timetable from time to time to make profitable changes in the schedule. When we skip the review, we may persist in the mistake of apportioning more time to a less important task. Time wasted through faulty planning can be avoided.

5)  By using a diary. A diary helps in planning and recording events and points. It need not be an exhaustive report, but just points jotted down. When we get into the habit it gives us a new perspective of time.

6)  By cultivating a holy awareness of death, not a morbid fear. Death is inevitable; no one can escape it. In jest it is said that all of us want to go to heaven, but no one wants to die. It is fear of the unknown, which will give way to confidence and peace when our trust in God grows. He loves us, no matter what our past and He will take us into His huge embrace, if only we have faith in Him and love Him. No questions asked. When we accept the fact that death is the gateway to heaven, we will shed our needless anxieties.


A frequently heard excuse is: `I do not have time`. That excuse appears hollow when we observe the lives of really busy people. The case of Indira Gandhi comes to mind. As the Prime Minister of India, she was among the busiest people in the world. Yet, she made time for cooking, gardening, time with her grandchildren and reading " she was among the best read women in the country. She could make time for what she thought was important, because she planned her time. Much the opposite, we complain that we have no time for prayer, exercise, visits to friends and relations, reading and other activities that would make our life full. We apologize that we are caught up in work " badly planned " and exhaust ourselves day after day in futile pursuits that keep us supposedly busy. If only we stopped to consider our schedules, we would find scope for change. But we will not, because we find comfort in the shield, `I do not have time` that protects us from poison darts that accusers shoot at us.


Let us shift to people who have retired. For them the sun has not set, but it is twilight. They have the notion that they have spent most of their lives in toiling and that during retirement they can fritter away time before the TV or in idle gossip. If they also planned their day, they could beneficially distribute time over reading, which would increase their knowledge, helping the less fortunate, exercising their ageing bodies and in prayer. When the end comes, they would have fewer regrets.


Our lives hang by a slender thread. When it will snap we do not know. If only we live each day as if it were our last, we would have little or no regrets when time runs out. David Gunston sums it up well: The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable miracle.