More Precious than Gold
Why time is so precious and why do we seek ways to ‘make the most of it’?
Let us go back to 4,000 BC in ancient China where the first clocks were invented. To demonstrate the idea of time to temple students, Chinese priests used to dangle a rope from the temple ceiling with knots representing the hours. They would light it with a flame from the bottom so that it burnt evenly, indicating the passage of time. Many temples burnt down in those days. The priests were obviously not too happy about that until someone invented a clock made of water buckets. It worked by punching holes in a large bucket full of water, with markings representing the hours, to allow water to flow at a constant rate. The temple students would then measure time by how fast the bucket drained. It was much better than burning ropes for sure, but more importantly, it taught the students that once the time was gone, it could never be recovered.
Of course, with the advancement of technology, no one uses water clocks anymore. But the fact that time is so limited remains ever true. Time is our most precious possession because, as with the burning rope or water clock, once it is consumed it cannot be replenished. We have a limited amount of it and it will eventually run out, no matter how much we hate to admit it. While you can always work more hours to earn more money, you cannot get more time. Time can only be lost, and lost in a variety of ways, but can never be regained. It is such a slippery resource that is only visible when it passes and only valued when it is gone. Unlike money that can be saved in a bank, or gold that be hidden in a treasure box, time cannot be saved. We have no choice but to spend every moment of it, and every moment that is spent is a moment that is gone forever.
Given that time is more precious than money, it seems entirely irrational that many of us are more willing to spend our time in making more money, but are reluctant to spend more money in enjoying our time. We look for the best bargains and think twice before spending our money ‘wisely’, but often fail to do the same with time. ‘Wasting’ a couple of hours is not as bad as losing a couple of hundred dollars from our wallet, even though in reality, time is far more precious than money. We all have that tendency to spend time as if it costs us nothing and it gets worse when you consider that time has an additional ‘opportunity cost’ attached to it. You can divide your money and spend it on various things, like clothes, a new car, or a fancy dinner, but you can only spend your time on one thing at a time. When you spend time on a certain activity, you effectively give up the opportunity to spend it on other things for the activity you chose. Any benefit that might have been derived, had you chosen to do any of those other things, would be lost forever.
Time is also priceless because it is truly a miracle that we are here. The odds that we are alive at this moment in time are one in a billion zillion. Think about it, there was only one chance in all of the history of this universe that you would have been able to exist, and there you are, you made it. If for any reason your father and mother, or any of your grandparents, did not meet at exactly the right time, and at exactly the right place, you would not be here. If any of your ancestors, having gone through wars, famines, pestilences, and all kinds of fatal calamities, did not manage to survive, you would not be here. The odds are astronomically stacked against your existence, but you won the lottery of life, and you made it. Only you do not know that you won and the prize value in the time given to you is kept hidden. You spend from that credit line without knowing the remaining balance. You realize that whatever you spend cannot be replenished and that lottery can only be won once, never twice!
For more on that check out my book “The Power of Time Perception” to learn more how we perceive time, the factors that affect the speed of time in your mind, and ways to slow it down.
You can also check my other book “The Time Miracle” on how to optimize time spending and create a more meaningful life.