We roll out of bed in the morning and a good chunk of our day becomes avoidance. We hit the snooze and go back to sleep. Our days are spent in benign conversation and menial tasks. The clock ticks like a judges gavel. We watch television and get drunk because we can’t think of better things to do.
In short, we are experts at wasting time. Our moments pass us by and we yawn at them, waving complacently. The primary focus of humans is to survive each unit of time. We’ve worked hard to create structures and means to keep us alive. And although those can be tragically interrupted at any second, the vast majority of our units are spent in relative safety.
Yet there is a longing in each of us. A longing for more. It is like an itch we are not sure how to scratch, viewed mostly as a nuisance, an irritant. But it isn’t going anywhere.
Just A Little About Everything
The trick to wasting time is to stay busy and to stay on the surface. We value knowing just a little bit about everything. If someone asks us “have you heard of Nietzsche” or “Jackson Pollock” or “The Fighting Tuesdays”, we are always tempted to say yes, even when the answer is no. It is embarrassing not to know everything. When confronted with an artist, an athlete, a politician or piece of legislature, or any host of other things we know nothing about, we either try to cover it up or fix it.
The problem is we are trying to know a little bit about everything but we don’t really know anything. Have you ever overheard two people talking at a coffee shop and it just sounds so ridiculous, so tedious? They’re talking about makeup or social media rivals or some other nonsense. The only difference between them and you is familiarity.
What Without A Why
Our society is a group of people searching for a what without a why. We just want something to do. Now. For a minute. Something that will be fun and engaging but won’t take too much of a commitment. We want to be able to move to the next what. We find a semblance of distraction by jumping from one thing to the next.
The thing that is missing from our lives is purpose. A truly meaningful why.
We get into political rants or passionate conversations about sports. We talk about our whats as if they are whys, and we waste so much time.
There is a part of us that is longing for the truth. We are longing for meaning, for something that matters. Each moment is an opportunity to engage in the meaningful endeavor or life. But we waste them in futile attempts to avoid failure and quell our fear.
The transformation only happens when we start to truly explore our values. Values are the lifeline for our meaninglessness, a rope in our quicksand. They provide a way out. The rescue from our superficial monotony is an exploration of what really matters to us and how to engage in it through the circumstances of our lives.
The real kicker here is that wasting time is not about what we are doing. It is not that watching television or talking about fashion are inherently meaningless. Values, however, color our whats with a why. They bring meaning, purpose, and intention to what we do each day. Naming our values helps us to root out what we are doing that just doesn’t really matter and reframe what does matter under a proper and useful heading.