Friday, July 30, 2004

Redeeming the Time

I am fond of a quote attributed to William Penn that describes the time trap we fall prey to often: “Time is what we want most, but what, alas, we use worst, and for which God will certainly reckon with us when time is no more.” It reminds me of the Scripture that admonishes us to “redeem the time, for the days are evil.”

For us to redeem our time, we need to allocate it so that we don’t succumb to the urgent, but less important, demands of life. For example, we sometimes need to decline extraneous commitments in order to develop meaningful relationships instead. If there’s one creed for us to heed it is that people matter more than programs.

In the words of Nancy Reagan, we must learn to “just say no.” Someone’s need does not necessarily mean we are called to do it. We need to discern the difference between something that is good and something that is right. And saying no to a good idea or need doesn’t always mean never. It may mean not right now.

The ultimate example of pacing oneself through life was Jesus. He knew he only had a limited time here on earth during which to accomplish his mission, yet he daily resisted the temptation to yield to the tyranny of the urgent. If he could lay aside peripheral activities for the sake of his personal agenda, surely we can do so ourselves.

As for me, I want to make the days count rather than simply count the days. And I am learning to do that by negotiating the level of commitment I am prepared to make to outside ventures and then communicating my boundaries to others. For as Dr. Phil teaches, “you train people how to treat you.”

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Surrendering to Serendipity
It has long fascinated me that there are actually two types of time. Chronos is the Greek word from which we get the English word chronology. It specifically refers to the type of time that can be measured by a clock. Kairos also is a Greek word and it stands for purposeful time, the type that is filled with meaning and cannot be conveniently measured.
Whether we use Daytimers or Palm Pilots to schedule our “chronos” time, it is helpful for us to allow sufficient space for some “kairos” time, or in other words, surrender to serendipity. Webster defines serendipity as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.”
The word serendipity was originally coined by the eighteenth-century British writer Horace Walpole, who defined it as “that quality of mind which, through awareness, sagacity, and good fortune, allows one to frequently discover something good while seeking something else.”
Serendipity can enhance our lives by enabling us to balance spontaneity and structure and allow us to leverage time, not simply log it. If our relationship to time is always one of racing the clock, then perhaps we need to unplug ourselves from manmade chronometers and practice living according to the rhythm of life for a change.

We enhance the quality of our life when we properly discern its times and tides, its ebbs and flows, its rhymes and rhythms. It was Henry David Thoreau who wisely noted: “I love a broad margin to my life.” And lifestyle maven Alexandra Stoddard echoes the same sentiment: “All of us are orbiting like stars in the universe. We can’t have our dance card filled for the rest of our lives, because we need spaces to allow for serendipity.”