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The Economy of Time

“We are food for worms, lads! Because we’re only going to experience a limited number of springs, summers, and falls. One day, hard as it is to believe, each and every one of us is going to stop breathing, turn cold, and die!”  –  John Keating in Dead Poets Society.

“Carpe Diem” John Keating shouts. It means to “seize the day”, to make the most of every opportunity because time is short.

Time is a resource that is extremely important to all of us. So much so, that companies try to sell us more time. They do this by advertising time-saving apps or creams and pills that reverse the effects of time on our bodies. There are a ton of self-help books that unlock the secrets of using the most of the time we have.

Time is a marketable resource. And our world is geared towards an economy of time where everything is fast or bite-size so that we can pack more stuff in our day, making the most of this finite resource.

In the film Jupiter Ascending we get a glimpse of a future where the Economy of Time is the heartbeat of some cruel investments. In the film, time is seen as a commodity that is of utmost importance and Kalique Abrasax puts it terrifyingly close to the bone:

“In your world, people are used to fighting for resources like oil and minerals and land. But when you have access to the vastness of space, you realise, there’s only one resource worth fighting over – even killing for. More time. Time is the single most precious commodity in the universe.”

It is clear in the film that there is only one resource worth fighting over – even killing for. More time.

This is chilling. It is chilling because it hints at something that is underlying in our society. We are desperate for more time, whether that’s trying to reverse the ageing process to claw time back or trying to multitask to get more things done, so we can have more time. Deep down we see time as a precious commodity. 

In another film called, “In Time” the whole premise and plot is around the use and economy of time.

in-time-movie-timeIn the film, Time = life.

The time a person has left is written in hours and days on their wrist, when it runs out, they die. The way this film explores the connection between time and the value of life is really interesting. Products cost time, so to buy a cup of coffee will cost 5 minutes or to use a taxi might cost 15 minutes. Those are minutes taken off the person’s life. So they have to be wise in what they buy and how they literally use their time. It is such a clever idea for a film.

Even in the Church we speak about the use of time, the Christian version of Carpe Diem is “Don’t Waste your Life”. It strikes at the heart of using our time well and not wasting it on silly things. Which is a good question to ask in the conversation.

But I wonder whether “time” is what we should be striving for?

In both films its clear that the more wealthy you are, then the more time you can buy or harvest. In the real world, the more money you have the more likely you can fill your time with leisure activities instead of mundane things.

But does that satisfy us? 

No matter how hard we try, we can’t really buy more time. As John Keating said in Dead Poets Society: “we’re only going to experience a limited number of springs, summers, and falls.” In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon says “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens“. 

Our time is limited. Striving for more won’t give us satisfaction in itself. But the one thing that makes our time meaningful and satisfying is:

Love.

If we are without love, then time becomes an empty pit of boredom. Time only becomes fruitful when it’s combined with love, community & others.

To echo the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13: “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

Emily Asher-Perrin writes in her article on Jupiter Ascending says:

Because whatever our future holds, the connections built on love and trust are the only ones that will keep us afloat. This theme every single time, in every single tale the tell. Because however dark their stories get, the Wachowskis clearly have hope, and they hold that above all.

We can have all the time in the world but without love and trust, it is all worthless.

It sounds cheesy, but deep down we know its true. We are a generation that has more leisure time than ever before, but yet we feel the most lonely and least connected. Time might be a commodity we will try to buy and sell, but as Emily writes above, it is love that keeps us afloat.



3 thoughts on “The Economy of Time”

  • Oooooo! I like this! It’s very – monastic (which as you know, is a big compliment). I’m always thinking about time and making the most of time – it strikes me that people tend to view ‘not wasting time’ in one of two directions – pleasure-seeking, or productivity. (Ie publishing 40 books before you die, or bungee jumping off 40 bridges. You may surmise from this description which one I ever towards…)

    But I think you’re right – although there are some proverbs telling us not to be lazy, the gospels show us a decidedly inefficient Jesus who just loved.

    Thanks for this!

    • Thanks Tanya!
      I can see bungee jumping off 40 bridges as one of your life goals ;-)! I think the whole time wasting thing is really interesting. What do we class as time wasting? Especially in the Christian world, it sometimes feels that some things are classed “better”, for example – reading a book compared to say watching a film or playing a video game. We value various activities at different levels! hmm I will have to ponder this a bit more :-)!

  • I cannot count the number of times I’ve told myself things would be alright/better/fixed ‘…if I just had more time.’ Could this be one of the most powerful lies of our age? (As a side note, I was thinking about this the other day, actually – reading some summaries of the heresies that theologians of the early church stood against, I wondered what the church of our day is battling? Should it worry me that I don’t know?!) I do think it’s true that as a broken, fallen human being, I need time to grow and learn – but the essence of what I need doesn’t rest in the time itself – it’s in the quality or manner of life that I lead. And the amazing thing is that we’re given time to live not our own futile, meaningless lives of frantic, anxious activity, but to join in the fruitful, abundant life of Jesus that he has shared with us! More of that is the time I need!

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