First, he calculated how much time he had had to that point of his life. (I think he was in his mid-70s at the time, having been born about 1908.) He laid it all out, down to the number of hours and minutes. (He was a much better mathematician than I am.)
Then, he began to recount his estimation of the various activities of his life and how many hours he had spent doing each of them.
Sleeping took up much of that time, of course. He had gotten relatively little of it during the war years, but he thought he had made up for it during slumber binges at other times. He had slept away about one-third of his life.
Work–reporting and writing and doing an assortment of odd jobs in his youth–had consumed about another third or more of his time, perhaps as much as half of his waking hours.
He calculated how many days or weeks worth of time he had spent doing various everyday things, such as shaving, dressing and undressing, watching vegetables grow in his garden, and even just sitting watching the Tennessee River flow by his East Tennessee home.
Adding up all that time, he discovered that he had a surprisingly large amount of time “left over,” time for which he could give no accounting. Time that he had spent doing who knows what. Time wasted. Time killed. Murdered.
And that was just his point. We waste an awful lot of time. Time that we’ll never have again.
The sad truth is that we typically don’t come to the same conclusion until, like Whitehead, we near the end of our allotted time on this earth. Then we wonder where all the time went.
I thought of Whitehead’s column the other day when I saw several Facebook posts by some of my former students. When I first saw their names, I immediately pictured their faces as the junior high kids who sat in my classes when I was just an inexperienced, still-wet-behind-the-ears teacher struggling to figure out what I was doing. But I was alarmed to see in the photos they posted that they now have children graduating college, getting married, serving our country in the military, working in medical careers, even having grandchildren of their own. And I suddenly felt old and found myself asking, “Where did all the time go?!”
Where was I when they grew up so fast? Has it really been that long ago? Am I really THAT old?!
The psalmist prayed, “So teach us to number our days. . . .” But for what purpose? “[T]hat we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
We only have so much time on this earth. We must “make hay while the sun shines.” We must use our time wisely because we must give an account of how we’ve spent every minute of it.
Personally, I don’t want to end my life with a large block of time for which I have no idea what I did. I want to know that I’ve spent it in positive, constructive, God-honoring, others-helping activities.
How about you? Where has your time gone? What have you done with it?