Sunday, January 10, 2016

Making the Most of 24 Hours: It's all we got.

“The chief beauty about time is that you cannot waste it in advance. The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you, as perfect, as unspoiled, as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your life. You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose.” ~ Arnold Bennett, How to Live on 24 Hours a Day.

Father Time has taken his leave just in time for the arrival of Baby New Year. This is the time of year many reflect on all that has been, and dream of all that might be. Yet as the year rolls forward, thoughts of nostalgia are lost to the busy-ness of everyday life, and dreams are replaced with “I don’t have time.”

From How to Live on 24 Hours a Day, Arnold Bennett is most often quoted as above, and a fine sentiment it is. However, Mr. Bennett heralds a warning in the following paragraphs of his work:

“But before you begin, let me murmur a few words of warning in your private ear.”

When someone makes a statement such as that, it tends to command attention. Imagine an elderly gent at the coffee shop whispering such a thing to you. Would you not become paralyzed in the moment, wondering what it is that he will say?

Without further ado, let me explain what those murmured words were, from way back in 1917. Mr. Bennett speaks of ardour and what a treacherous thing it can be. You see, we all want to do well, and be well. We begin our endeavors of “turning a new leaf,” in whatever manner, with fervent intent. We pronounce to the entire world our intention to change something we are not quite so comfortable with about ourselves. We begin in earnest the work that it requires.

“Beware of undertaking too much at the start. Be content with quite a little. Allow for accidents. Allow for human nature, especially your own.”

It’s like running a marathon. If you begin the race with all your energy, by and by you will find that it becomes more difficult to finish. At one third of way, you are gasping for air and chugging water. Two-thirds, you are holding your sides and heaving every breath, desperately looking ahead for the finish line. And, not quite at the finish line, you collapse from exhaustion, where we meet our old and comfortable friend, Failure.

“A failure or so, in itself, would not matter, if it did not incur a loss of self-esteem and of self-confidence.”

We’ve all been there at one New Year’s Day or another. “I’m going to quit this, that or the other thing. I’m going to do this, that or the other thing.” You can fill in the blanks. We’ve all made our proclamations to the world; and we’ve all failed in the aftermath of our own arduor.

The premise of Mr. Bennett’s work is living to the fullest in the 24-hour day we are all given. Budgeting our time, talent and treasures to fulfill our need for happiness and contentment. Most of us spend approximately ten hours each day in the going to, being at, and coming home from work. We often lament those ten hours of every day, because we would rather be doing something else. As we go forth into the unknowns of 2016, keep in mind, our jobs do not define who we are, nor do they tally our worth.

Mr. Bennett has given us much to think about:

  • First, let us not bite off more than we can chew at the beginning of the year. Take your New Year’s resolution in small doses, and allow yourself the energy necessary to reach the finish line. The success or failure of the endeavor falls on each of us, and how we approach the turning of a new leaf in any regard.

  • And second, take each 24-hour day we are given, and maximize the outcome. Make each moment count, whether we are at work, or home, or wherever it is we might be. Life was never meant to be lived in relentless sorrow, grief, misery or pain. The sun rises each day, and with its dawning comes a new opportunity to choose to live happy.

There is much to be learned from literature. Through literature we learn to live, to love, and to conquer.