Time is everything. What do we do with ours?
April 11, 2014
Some aspect of time steals quietly into our psyche in all conscious moments, and our use or abuse of it is central to much poetry, lyrics, scripts, conversations—you name it.
Time, we’ve long claimed, is—or is not—on our side. It marches on, but sometimes seems to stand still. Though it deserves unending respect, its import is easily kicked to the side, like a soft drink can on life’s highway.
Timing, some claim, is everything.
A poet—and much more—challenged us to make best use of time. (It was but a smattering of wisdom embodied in Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King. He was president of Morehouse College for 27 years and recipient of some five dozen doctoral degrees.)
It is a short poem of just 54 words.
But, they say much: “I have only just a minute, only 60 seconds in it. Forced upon me, can’t refuse it. Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it. But it’s up to me to use it. I must suffer if I lose it. Give account if I abuse it. Just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.”
When one’s hourglass of sand becomes bottom heavy, it is human nature to squeeze time.
David Letterman’s surprise bombshell on April 3 that he would leave his late-night show sometime in 2015 was a shocker.
There’s little middle ground for Letterman—viewers either love him or change channels at the mention of his name. Not to be argued, though, are the facts. He will have appeared nightly for 35 years—about 6,000 shows.
That he’s vague about the date of his final show shouldn’t surprise. He’ll “milk it” for weeks on end, just as he did with his quintuple bypass heart surgery 15 years ago.
Athletes sometimes announce retirements before their final seasons, thus making farewell appearances at dozens of venues. Yankee relief pitcher Mariano Rivera did so last year, requesting the chance to address stadium employees—at all levels—at each stop. To learn of this great humanitarian—and how he spends his time and resources—is to be inspired.
I do not criticize other choices for closure–even if they span months or years—or if participants “milk it” to the hilt. (CBS Sports’ Jim Nantz, 54, has circled April 8, 2035, as his retirement date, perhaps on the occasion of his 50th Masters coverage.)
Let’s try to remember a long-ago definition of a soap opera: A production where it takes a woman three years to deliver a baby prematurely.
Some people I’ve known think tardiness should be fairly high up on the “sin list.” Others joke about it, saying they’re committed to being punctual, no matter how long it takes.
It would be interesting to research timepieces, and how ongoing technology makes possible rather unimaginable accuracy. We’ve known for decades to point our clocks toward Boulder, CO, where the National Institute of Standards and Technology has announced a spanking new atomic clock that won’t gain or lose a second in roughly 300 million years. Called the NIST F-2, it is said to be three times more accurate than the old NIST F-1.
Wonder who came up with the need to fiddle with the original version, whose accuracy would have remained unchallenged for at least 100 million years? And, how do they know they won’t miss a tick every century or so?
No matter how time is analyzed–or “milking” refined, or time pieces improved–we should make the best use of it, no matter which end of the hourglass fits us.
It is ours always to strive to do better, with one notable exception. We should forgive the cows at Carnation, the brand that introduced evaporated milk in 1899. For decades, the company’s advertising always included reference to their “contented cows.”
Pet Milk proponents, on the other hand, claimed their cows were NOT contented, “but always striving to do better.”
It’s probably best that none of us knows the distance to the finish line.
When we are at our foggiest, maybe a camel, stumbling along, will ask if we know what day it is.
If we guess wrong, maybe the dromedary will give us another chance….
Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: [email protected] Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: www.speakerdoc.com. Twitter: @donnewbury
Please click the book cover image to read more about the humorous and inspirational stories in Don Newbury’s When the Porch Light’s On.