Saturday, June 16, 2012

Real Time

Just remember, once you're over the hill you begin to pick up speed.

Arthur Schopenhauer
Hello Margie
What's the difference between real time and obligatory time? If you are invited to a party by a friend and you go delighted to be there, to meet their friends and share some stories, laughs and good companionship, that's real time. If you go to meet someone you think will be there just to do make a contact and maybe do some business, even that is real time. If you go to put in an appearance just to make sure that you don't lose an acquaintance or insult the host, that's obligatory time.

If you take your kids to the playground and enjoy seeing them play and maybe pushing them on a swing or catching them as they come down the slide, laughing with them and listening to their chatter, that's real time. If you take them to the park just to sit and talk with another parent or do nothing but keep an eye on them while they do whatever they can find to do on their own, that's obligatory time and the average child knows the difference.

Now answer this, what is the difference between a real life and an obligatory life?

One of the advantages of growing older, going "over the hill," as Schopenhauer and others put it, is the realization of how much obligatory time one has logged on one's time sheet and how sparse the real time measurements are. Those vacations at the beach which were meant to be relaxing times were actually obligatory escapes from a difficult or time consuming job. Getting with the guys for horseshoes or the girls for your bridge club may seem to have been real time but as you look back it seems more like a waste of time, an obligatory waste of time. Time you could have spent doing what? Something real?

Some of those of us who are masquerading as senior citizens (for want of a better term) take on projects. We learn a foreign language as I am trying to do. We join a book club to read and discuss some of the world's great, or not so great, literature. We go on cruises to see what the Earth looks like in the Caribbean, or Mediterranean or in the Fjords of Norway or Alaska. We volunteer our services in hospitals, day care centers or other institutions where some senior wisdom will be useful. We take up painting or writing and produce works that will beautify and enhance other lives. We take up a new enterprise or a new business and go back to work. And why do we do it?

We do not do it because life is short and we had better do something with the little time we have left while we're waiting to die. No. We do it because we are alive and wish to live real lives and not obligatory ones any more. Let the magazines and the TV talk show hosts admire her for teaching a college course at the age of 80. She's not thinking about being 80. She's thinking about teaching.

Old fogies pick up speed because they no longer waste time on obligatory lives. Let pretence, guile, artificiality and acting-their-age go out with the trash along with the false eyelashes. They're out for the real stuff.

Dana Bate - The Vagabond
Never Give Up

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