“I got my reasons to live. I worked hard to figure out what they are. I’m not just handing them to you. Okay? You want a reason to live, have a drink of water and get some sleep, wake up in the morning and try again like everybody else does.
It’s not your life. It’s life. It’s life as in ‘bigger than you’ if you can imagine that. Life isn’t something that you possess; it’s something that you take part in. And you witness.”
-Louis C.K., comedian
I’ll concede right up front that I’m a nerd, though that’s no surprise to any regular readers. But yesterday I had the particularly nerdy urge to figure out how much time people spent on my blog. With analytics breaking down information in excruciating detail, I already know how much time (to the second) people spend on each page, but I wondered about the total human time spent reading what I have to say.
I multiplied the number of minutes each person spent on average on each page (about four minutes) by the number of page views last week (a little over 2500). The result was just over 10,000 minutes spent last week on the blog. Divide this by sixty to figure out that 168 hours were spent there. Divide that number by 24 hours in a day and you get seven days.
One week. A total of a week of human time was spent last week on my blog. For serious bloggers with much larger followings, this doesn’t seem like much, but added all together, that’s the equivalent to commanding a single human being’s attention every minute of every day. If that trend continues (or hopefully grows), that number just gets bigger.
Suddenly the weight of responsibility is a lot more real. I’d better actually have something to say.
It got me thinking about the books I’ve done too. Say someone spends on average about five hours with a book. That doesn’t seem like a lot until you multiply it by all of the copies out there. Give or take the copies that get bought but never read, we’re still talking about many thousands of hours. And if you consider we only have 8,760 hours in a year, it’s more sobering.
It’s equally sobering to think of our own lives in this way. The average life expectancy of someone in the United States is just under 79 years. Multiply that by the number of hours in a year, and we each have an average of about 692,000 hours to play with from the moment we’re born until we cash in our chips.
Start omitting the hours we spend sleeping (about 230,500), stuck in traffic (30,500), going to the bathroom (10,000) and getting ready in the morning (28,500) and we’re down to about 392,500 hours to burn. For some, time spent at work is simply a means to an end. For some lucky folks, it’s actually life-giving, but consider that this consumes about another 90,000 hours, figuring on the conservative side.
So what do we do with the remaining 300,000 hours we have left? Put another way, would we spend it any differently if we thought about it as a preciously limited commodity that we trade in, bit by bit, on every activity we chose, day in and day out?
My wife, Amy, and I started using Financial Peace to get control of our finances some years back. One of the things the program encourages is using cash instead of credit cards. The reason, it suggests, is that it “hurts more” to hand over cash, as compared with swiping a piece of plastic through a machine. And it’s been shown that people actually do spend less, all other things being equal, when they use cash for purchases.
The problem with our time is that it has no such way to make our use of time so concrete. Sure, we have watches, but they begin again every day, as if time itself is an infinitely renewable resource. This is one reason I’m particularly interested in the new sci-fi movie, In Time, in which people’s remaining lifespan is measured in days, hours, minutes and second on their forearm with a digital implant.
And how often do we hear people marvel at the fact that time simply seems to slip by them, and that the phenomenon only gets worse as we age? There actually have been studies that show the way the synapses fire in the human brain change as we age, which does actually make time feel like it accelerates. But if you consider a year to a forty year old, as compared to that in the life of a toddler, it’s also a simple matter of perspective and mathematics.
I think it’s really a simple matter of mindfulness: a practice emphasized in Buddhism, and though practiced daily by Jesus himself, largely lost in the life of the average Christian. We can’t slow time down, and there’s only so much we can do to help increase the odds of more time in our personal bank. The real thing we have any real control over is how we choose to spend what time we have, and how present we are to it as it’s happening.
So to all of you who do choose to spend a piece of your limited, precious time reading my ideas and hopefully sharing a few of your own thank you.
And for the rest of you who are using this as a distraction from the rest of your life, put down the laptop and get living.