Maxim Monday: Use time sparingly

What does this one even mean? Is this trying to tell us not to waste time? Or to try and do things efficiently, so as to spend the least amount of time on any one task?

We cannot ‘use’ time, as time is a mental construct humans have created. From what I understand, not all societies think of time or interact with it the same ways.

Sparingly means meagrely, pieced out, prudently, with restraint. How do we use time like this?

I have no idea. This one has got me stumped. Do you have any ideas?

About Niki Whiting
  • epymetheus

    Here’s my thought: The emphasis on this maxim is about “using”. It is, perhaps a delineation between using time as we see fit and doing our best to be in the moment. I’m doing a whole bunch of no-no’s here in ascribing what I view as an eastern idea of being in the moment to an ancient Greek maxim, but whatever, I can use it how I see fit.

    Use time sparingly means to me to have as little a plan as possible and be in the moment. Listen to the world, hear your destiny and use time sparingly when you have to. Use it when you have to, but be in it or be used by it. Submit yourself to the world and see what possibilities open up. Challenging, frightening and thrilling advice.

    • Ealasaid

      Interesting! I read it almost the opposite way: don’t waste time, don’t spend more time on something than is necessary. Be thoughtful about how you spend your time, and use what time you have well.

      As someone with issues around procrastination and self-numbing through video games, this jabbed me in the butt. :)

      • myownashram

        Excellent! But wouldn’t a better way to express this be: don’t waste time? or, use your time well? Clearly I am caught up on semantics. Perhaps I am not using my time as efficiently, as sparingly, as I could here. ;)

        • Ealasaid

          I’m curious what the original Greek is, now. I’ll have to look it up and dust off my Classical Greek dictionary and textbook.

          • myownashram

            Let us know what you find!

          • Ealasaid

            Alllll righty! So, apparently the original is (roughly transliterated) Khronou Pheidou – literally “time” and (the state of being) “sparing, thrifty, chary of a thing”. I would translate it (with my decade-old, single year of Classical Greek, ha) as “Be thrifty with time,” or possibly “Don’t waste time.”

            I do like how compact the maxims are in the original Greek, at least as represented here:

          • myownashram

            See! So much better! Thanks for hunting this down!

          • Ealasaid

            My pleasure! Stuff like this is why I still have my books from Greek 101 and 102 after all these years. You never know when they’ll come in handy!

            Hrm, maybe I should start doing Maxim Monday too, and include notes on the original text. :D I’ve really been enjoying your posts on the Maxims, and had fun with the Greek this time.

          • myownashram

            Yes! Do it!

    • myownashram

      I am caught up on the sparingly part, I think. But if some one intended your meaning (which I quite like) then there are myriad better ways to express that!

  • Niklas Gander

    Translation is one of the most challenging things a linguist can ever do – to accurately reflect an *idea* in a language that is often not a mother tongue. Choices are never as simple as a one-to-one correspondence, even though that’s how simultaneous translation is typically taught in this country. All translations are plagued with better ways to express what is in the original. If there is “wiggle room” for alternate *interpretations*, sometimes that can salvage an otherwise unremarkable technical translation.

    • myownashram

      Yes. Alas, I have no Greek at all!

  • Pingback: Maxim Monday | Ego! Ego! Ego!()