As some of you already know, my wife and I were blessed with the birth of our third child a little over two weeks ago. I mention this event for a few reasons. First, because I am very proud of my little family, and I like to shamelessly brag about them whenever possible. Second, to give my readers and followers an explanation for my recent lack of posts or updates to my book and to this blog. Third, because spending so much time with my new daughter and the rest of my family has provided me with an opportunity to ponder on the nature of spending time.
Early on in my writing of The Time Traveler’s Definitive Guide, Volume 2, I knew that one of the major themes I wanted to address was the finite amount of time each of us has in this mortal existence, and taking a look at how that time is used. I’ve heard it said that time is our one truly limited resource. One of the concepts I try to convey early on in my book is that even time travelers have only so much time in their lives, and they must be as mindful as the rest of us concerning how they spend that time.
In truth, I think that the ability to time travel would add some significant challenges to the already difficult task of managing one’s time. I know that I would have a difficult time overcoming the temptations to skip back and forth only between the times and events in my life that are particularly exciting or gratifying. Why sit through the drudgery of the middle of a project if I could instead jump right from the excitement at the beginning to the satisfaction at the end? If I only have so much time in my life, wouldn’t that time be better spent on the really big, important stuff?
Ah, but there’s the danger in such a temptation. Most of the time the most important stuff is not really all that big, and the big stuff is often not really all that important. Of course some things are both big and important, like the birth of my daughter two weeks ago, but that lasted only about twenty minutes, and was surrounded on both sides by a lot of tedious waiting.
This very moment, I am writing this blog post at a slower pace as I type one-handed because I’m holding my daughter in my other arm. But what would be the alternative if I were a time traveler? Jump ahead a few months to when she doesn’t need to be constantly held? Jump forward a couple of years when she can talk and I can tell her to not bother me? Jump ahead a couple of decades to when she and her siblings have moved out and started their own families?
Though I can see the allure of these options, there is a voice in my head that firmly says, “No.” I am spending my time with my daughter. I am investing that temporal currency into a relationship with her as a father, and if I don’t make those deposits now, when will I?
And I don’t believe this temptation to “time travel” through life is an entirely fictional concern. One year ago this month, I read the following Dilbert comic strip by Scott Adams:
I was startled to realize how accurate this joke portrayed my own habits. There is no shortage of distractions and diversions in our modern world, and technology makes those distractions ever-easier to access at any time. How often do I “fast-forward through the boring parts of life” and dilute the investments of time I should be making to those people and endeavors in which I should be investing most heavily? Certainly I am as guilty of this practice as any.
I think that this diluting of time investments will only continue to escalate in a world that increasingly praises multi-tasking, and in which distractions are increasingly available. I hope that one of the outcomes of reading The Time Traveler’s Definitive Guide, Volume 2 will be causing the reader to reflect on the way the spend their own currency of time, and to be mindful of the dangers of fast-forwarding through the boring parts.