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  • Writer's pictureMika Vanhanen

Greediness of time - Olli-Pekka Heinonen

Updated: Dec 26, 2023


Human time is limited. The Roman philosopher Cicero could not understand how people are stingy with goods and money, yet generously share their time with others.

Cicero might be pleased to see what time hoarders we have become. Time is not to be wasted, and if it can be saved by being more efficient, the opportunity is used. When we strive to measure out all the spare time in work and everyday life, where do we really store it?

Time should be the most egalitarian measure, but the subjective experience of time is unevenly distributed. Some have no time even to lament the lack of time, and others have nothing to do and all day to do it.

When life presents challenges, we turn to thinking that we lack something. We must get something more, and we hurry to find it. Advertising strongly reinforces this phenomenon; whether it's a new car, shampoo, or cell phone, advertising skilfully strokes the idea that by acquiring it, one will find the missing piece that makes one whole. We pay the price and get an even greater feeling of emptiness.

The same applies to the use of time. The Czech writer Milan Kundera wrote about how modern man is tied to a shard of time, which is detached from the past and the future and which is at once freedom and a prison. The extraction of time is a lifestyle disease. We are time gluttons, real gourmands. Time that is not filled with something is not time at all.

We sleep less and less. According to some studies, the average sleep time has decreased from eight hours to six hours over the past fifty years.

Where do we use the extra time that we do not sleep?

We are constantly about to be late. Last-minute rushing has become an achievement that has become an end in itself; we are last-minute rushers. Although we are really late, we believe that we still just have time. On a global scale, 12 percent of the agreed sustainable development goals are on schedule, almost half are behind, and a third are at the starting block or have backtracked.

But still, we believe that we will just in time save ourselves and the planet.

Who spurs us on? Ourselves. We have created a culture of haste and a haste of culture.

In the Japanese language, the word haste is written with the characters for lose and heart. In hasty doing, there is no heart and soul involved; they cannot keep up with the pace. Hasty doing is not the answer to the challenges of our time, but it is a big part of the problem. Now we don't have time to do things hastily.

A person develops and matures slowly. Learning happens when there is space and time for it. Doing does not accumulate experience; it arises afterwards when there is an opportunity to go through what has been done. That's why feedback is so important. That's why celebrating achievements is so important.

The human mind needs space and time to allow what has happened to sink into our own story, by taking the heart along. The spice of life is not just in getting, but in the journey that leads to achievement. If we optimize away the time used for the journey, the achievement loses its flavor.

Christmas time and the turn of the year are a pivot point in the passage of time for many. Something ends, and we step into something new. The ancient Romans thought of the New Year as a door opening, and thus the god of doors and gates, beginnings and ends, Janus, has given his name to the first month of the year in many languages.

At the threshold of the new, at the door, people naturally slow down and look carefully where they are stepping. It is advisable to do so and to consider whether the way one has lived the past year is good for the next year. One can live life to the fullest in many ways.

If last-minute rushing no longer inspires, it's worth swimming against the current. Make room for nothing. Spend your time thinking about nothing. Set a goal to aim for nothing. Seek the benefit of that which has no benefit.

No more time comes from anywhere, we don't win time, we don't lose it, nor can we control it. Therefore, it is advisable to live with time. Olli-Pekka Heinonen Director General at International Baccalaureate



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