Last week I marked another successful trip around the sun — 365 days of adventure. That got me thinking (as birthdays and anniversaries always do) about how it all goes by so fast.
On my birthday I often listen to “Dog Years” a song by the band Rush. The song describes how, for dogs, a single year is more like seven, but that for people it’s the inverse — seven years go by like one.
How true is that? And the older I get the truer it is. Time goes by faster and faster, and despite my best efforts, I haven’t found a way to slow it down.
What to do, what to do?
Crack open my well-worn copy of Dante’s Inferno.
I love that book, and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it or taught it in literature classes. But it’s something I return to for its imagery and symbolism.
Dante arranges all the sinners in Hell in concentrically smaller circles corresponding to the seven deadly sins. The further down you go, the worse the sin.
It may sound kinda weird, but on my birthday I like to think about the thieves described in Cantos 24 and 25. I’m fascinated that the thieves are sentenced to a such a deep level in Hell.
Why is that?
I think it’s because thievery is intentional.
If I walk out of a store with a bunch of jewelry stuffed in my pockets…well, that jewelry didn’t get there by accident.
Thievery involves forethought.
Stealing from someone else is another way of taking their life.
When thieves steal from you, they are taking more than a piece of electronic equipment or artwork. The theft is about the property, but the property is symbolic of all the time you spent earning the money to buy that stereo or painting.
Stealing my property is, in the final assessment, a way of stealing my time—literal bits of my life.
Time — it’s the most important of all commodities because of its irreplaceability.
I don’t know how much time I’ve got, and neither does anyone else. But one thing I do know is that once time is gone there’s no way of getting it back.
So the best birthday advice I can give myself when it comes to time is “choose wisely.” The Inferno reminds me to be careful with my time.
Be protective of your time. Don’t steal it from yourself.
Keep an eye on your priorities. Don’t get bogged down doing things I really don’t want or need to do. I’ve started saying “no” to the things I honestly don’t want to do. It’s liberating!
Call those days spent a day putzing around doing nothing in particular “recharging days” because that’s what they do. It’s life affirming.
Give yourself a present. Change the way you think about time.