We are in the never-ending pursuit of productivity. Efficiency is today’s major concern and we are completely blind to the fact that we are enslaved to that beast we thought we tamed: time.
“Maybe I can triple major.” We are paranoid and guilt-driven to overthink our use of time and our decisions.
What happened to our art, where did we leave our poetry, our humanity? We have sold it in exchange for “progress.”
Take a look at your calendar. Grab your iPhone or GoogleCal and look at all those colorful slots. Classes, labs, workshop, some club meetings. The remaining blank slots will soon be painted with the color of a homework assignment or a project.
In the desperate desire for efficiency, we have strived for progress in technology and productivity.
We have created machines and systems to help us in this pursuit. Systems that, in turn, grab our lives, package them and give them back to us like standardized pre-fabricated sets of weeks for us to process.
The hours and days and weeks are delivered to us; we check them off as to-do tasks and move onto the next. Do we really choose what to do every day?
Are we really in charge of the hour slots in the day? We spend all this time figuring out how we will organize the next day and week, and we feel powerful as we label our time with different activities.
Little do we realize that it’s the same game of reassigning the same five or six labels — activities to which we are subjects — to our daily hour slots. We are owned by time. We are owned by our activities and we cannot leave the carousel.
Have you ever assigned yourself a time slot for listening to music? How about for writing a poem? Have you ever assigned a time slot to read a book or walk through the cemetery without headphones?
You will never forget to take five hours of the day for completing your WebWork, but there just isn’t enough time for creativity.
We lie to ourselves that we have to be productive to be better off in the future.
What future? The only thing that will change for you is the label you assign to your hour slots. School, work, more school, more work, promotions, raises, kids, bills, etc. The names of the duties and obligations will be different, but it will ultimately be the same standard package. There is no way out of it.
When you finally set aside some time and assign an hour long slot for creativity you will have lost the juvenile spirit of changing the world.
The reason we will not forget to take time out of the day for our academic duties, like WebWork, is because it has a deadline.
But we can’t forget that we have a deadline too — it’s just not every Monday at 11:59 p.m. — and there are things we have to do in life too. We have to enjoy it, see the beauty in it, but really see it. It’s our duty because we are here.
Sure, today we achieve more distinctions, we have more duties, and we will have a longer résumé. But the cost is very high. The problem lies in that the time we save in doing one duty more efficiently does not liberate us, but rather enslaves us to our next task, to the next gear of the enormous mechanism efficiency has created to serve itself.
It is not our fault; maybe society has just stumbled onto this. Maybe the root lies as far behind as the Industrial Revolution or the invention of capitalism.
I am not blaming anyone, nor asking anyone to fix it. This is not a statement of defeat or pessimism. I am just calling for all of us to keep this in mind. For all of us to grab on to our creativity and art and humanity. To keep doing all the activities we do, to keep serving that beast of efficiency if we wish to do so, but in doing so, never forget to smell the aroma of today.
My father once wrote, “We live longer years composed of shorter days. The physics of time surely hasn’t changed, but in the metaphysical dimension there appears to be less sand in the clock, or it empties faster, reminding us of how the sand will fall over our tombs when time has gone away for good.”
Assign an hour slot for creativity. Do it today. On your calendar, from 10 to 11 p.m.: drawing.
Tobar is a member of the class of 2015.