In my Time Management seminars, I was predictably obliged to comment on the cliché, “Time is money”. Equally predictably I pointed out its inaccuracy which some fail to notice. The tired adage was meant to remind us that time is so precious that it is the equivalent of, of value equal to, money. Well ….
Since the Industrial Revolution, successful businessmen instinctively have applied the obvious implication of the platitude to mass-production, and more recently to techniques like “Just in time”, to improve efficiency in the flow of goods from factory to consumer. Planes, automobiles, trains and especially computers are prime examples of saving time and therefore money, an imperative in trade, business and daily life, since the discovery of more rapid routes for sailing ships, the building of the Suez and Panama canals, and the invention of fast food.
I was almost embarrassed to have to point out the even more obvious : time is not only as valuable as money but inestimably more precious. Wallets can be lost but can also be refound (with or without help from Saint Anthony of Padua). Money lost on the Stock Exchange or in other casinos can be won back. Lost time, however, is lost forever. The dictum “Times flies” contains an adjective too many forget : “Tempus irreparabile fugit”; time is irretrievable. It was not an accident that I used the Latin slogan as the title of my final Reflection in my book “From Illusions to Illumination”.
People like me lucky enough to reach retirement and to be able to survive – for the time being – have to do some serious thinking about the time we have left before it’s all over. We are far more vulnerable than our children. We know we can expect, if we survive – temporarily – those inevitable illnesses and operations, heavy expenses for our continued survival. But what if we live longer than we can afford ? Only a minority can meet monthly expenses of up to 4500 euros (or even dollars) for the care and comfort offered in “homes” for the ailing, invalid, increasingly dependent old folks we are or are becoming. “To be or not to be” is no longer a choice just for Hamlet. Do we sell the property and possessions we hopefully have acquired to cover, literally, “living” expenses ? Or do we prefer the less selfish, altruistic, generous sacrifice of our own life to improve that of our inheritors, here and now, or by a given date ? Some governments are actually proposing that their senior populations consider the option of suicide. Time is money. Should we and Social Security systems finance a prolongation of life for those whose time is, well, up ?
Serious questions, that many families would refuse even to consider. For them there is no question of not keeping the old fogies, the beloved parents and grandparents, alive as long as possible. All of us, however, across all three generations, should ask ourselves … “Why ?”
We know we can’t take it with us, as they say, meaning money. Money is of no value to the dead. But what point is there in wasting what is of value to the living, by using it to buy a little more time for those of us in the Autumn if not the Winter of our years ?
The subject is not only delicate but dangerous, for reasons too obvious to underline. But responsible, realistic reflection on it is a consummation devoutly to be promoted, on the part of all concerned. For me, not yet physically dependent, clinically senile or financially insolvent, the decision is clear : my children should feel entirely free, if ever my physical survival, literally “at all costs”, becomes problematic, to facilitate the termination of serious, permanent, untreatable, meaningless pain for me, and perhaps unreasonable financial burdens for them. Careful now : I don’t want people jumping the gun. As long as I am “compos mentis” (some would question whether I still am), I want to have my say on the matter. Matter of fact, I insist on my right to veto. It’s my life, my time, we’re talking about.