A blessed, peaceful and bountiful 2019 to all. Apologies for the absence of my column over the last few weeks. Busy circumstances engulfed my time.
It seems as we get older time moves more rapidly. We all have 24 hours in a day but those hours seem to go in minutes. Here we are at the beginning of a new year. When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to get older, now I am older I wonder where all the years have gone so quickly.
Last December, I had the opportunity to get together with schoolmates from our alma mater, the Christ Church Foundation School. I carried with me a picture that four of us took together at our graduation in 1985. It was wonderful that years after we could recreate the same pose and take another picture together. Technology this time around ensured we could take the picture, view it the same time and change as we needed to get the angles just right. As my post on Facebook pointed out: “33 years on, receding hairlines, greying hairs, and more pounds, four high school friends and classmates of the Christ Church Foundation School reconnecting.” All those years had passed but thank God, we were still alive and able to gather together to reminisce of our time when we were in our teens.
At the beginning of another year people tend to reflect on the past year and look forward to the new year. The reality is that human beings are just transitioning through time. This time that we count and pay attention to is a creation just like us. And the painful reality is that for all living beings it is a countdown. Every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every month and every year in reality brings us closer to our expiration date. So while we traditionally celebrate the ushering in of a new year with much fanfare, excitement and celebration, we are celebrating getting closer to our exit. This, I know, sounds morbid but sadly, it is a fact we overlook or ignore. In overlooking this fact we lose sight of the value of the limited time we have on this earth. Some have actually argued that time is an illusion. According to Albert Einstein, “the dividing line between past, present, and future is an illusion”.
I recently chose the topic of ‘Time’ for a sermon. I focused on a very small chapter from the Holy Quran in which we were reminded that, “By the passing of time, humankind is in a state of loss, except those who believe and do good deeds and exhort each other to truth and exhort each other to patience.”
In researching this topic I learned much by way of how human beings tend not to value their limited time on earth and how easily we are distracted and side-tracked. Advances in technology and the advent of social media have certainly added to our insatiable habit of throwing away our time. There are roughly two billion people on Facebook and perhaps equal numbers on all the other forms of social media. Experts tell us that on average we check our smartphones 150 times a day. In fact, studies have found we check our phone every 15 minutes or less for a notification, whether one is there or not, and half the time there is none.
Analysts say that human beings are basically “jacked in” to our devices. That is where an extraordinary amount of our time is spent. It seems we can’t help it and the younger generation is at an even greater disadvantage. The pressure to be on social media, to be up to date by the split second is mind-boggling. This pressure creates an anxiety and a stress unprecedented among younger people. There is anxiety to check in and check up and stress when that is impossible due to low battery power or a lack of WiFi. In the developed world, suicide rates are up among the younger generation and experts are speaking of a link between this increase and the anxiety created by social media.
In some places it is now called an addiction, just like gambling and alcohol; attachment to social media is addictive. This is where many human beings now waste away hours. Take time as you move around to observe the habits of others. On the bus, on the road, at home, we are glued to our phones, time is passing and we are oblivious to what is happening around us. We are so caught up in getting the right picture of the beautiful scenery or unfolding phenomena that we lose the beauty of seeing it all with the naked eye.
I am guilty of the above like so many of us, but understanding the ‘nature of the beast’ helps me to free myself. Our time is precious, and it is really the only common resource that every single human being possesses. Whether we are wealthy or poor, sick or healthy, physically fit or challenged, we all have that resource called time, and how we make use of that time is what makes the difference in our quality of life, the contentment we can have, and the legacy we leave behind. It is certainly true that “time (and tide) waits for no man”. We use that precious resource to our benefit or we abuse it to our detriment. As William Penn reminds us: “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”
As 2019 speeds away just like 2018 did and 2017 before that, let us not waste a moment and let us commit to utilizing every minute to be of benefit to ourselves and others around us in whatever way we can, even in small ways, if that is all we can muster.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace. Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)