“Were all the geniuses of history to focus on this single theme, they could never fully express their bafflement at the darkness of the human mind. No person would give up even an inch of their estate, and the slightest dispute with a neighbor can mean hell to pay; yet we easily let others encroach on our lives — worse, we often pave the way for those who will take it over. No person hands out their money to passersby, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.”SENECA, ON THE BREVITY OF LIFE, 3.1-2
We jealously guard our possessions and our property. And we don’t just give away our money to anyone, of course. We protect these things to the nth degree, and sometimes even have huge arguments over them, with people we love. We are very, very careful about our cash and the things that we own.
But when it comes to time? We practically give that away. We let almost anybody take up our time and energy — whether it’s directly via request, or a task that we’ve offered to complete; or indirectly via our reaction (or over-reaction) to something that someone said or did, and the hours we spend obsessing and revisiting it in our minds.
Interestingly, possessions and money are renewable. We can get more possessions; we can replace them if we give them away, or if they’re taken from us. Likewise, you can always earn more money.
But time is the one resource that is finite in our lives. We have a limited store of time before we breathe our last. We can’t regenerate or manufacture more time out of thin air. Time doesn’t stand still — nothing does. So why do we give it away so freely to almost anyone who asks? Why aren’t we more stingy with our time? This is the question that is asked in today’s entry in The Daily Stoic.
Seneca’s answer is that “we should all be the toughest misers” when it comes to our time.