Having decided to leave his castle home to explore the world outside his protected environment, Prince Siddhartha sought a means to support himself in his new life. Upon meeting the merchant Kamaswami, Siddhartha was asked,
“What is it that you’ve learned, what are you able to do?”
To a prince whose needs had been catered too his entire life, this seemed a strange question. He replied truthfully.
“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”*
In my life as a philosopher, poet, dreamer, and writer, I was proud of the fact that I too had learned these three skills from life. I can think. I can wait. I can fast. However, if I were to be asked the same question today. I would reply truthfully that I no longer wait. I am no longer the patient man I once prided myself as being. I no longer wait in line at the bank or grocery store. (Fortunately in Ecuador, seniors have their own line in those two arenas.) I no longer wait for people who are late for meetings or appointments. When my Spanish language instructor is late for class, I leave. She tells me that Latin people are not concerned with time and I should be patient, but still, I believe waiting or not waiting is my decision. I choose not to wait. The reason for my choice to no longer be patient and wait while others use up moments of my time is in one word, death.
We are each given only so much time in this life to live and because my life grows shorter with each passing day, I no longer permit other people or events to waste it. My time has become more precious to me as I travel closer to death. I will live and enjoy my remaining time on my own terms. Those terms do not permit the time of my life to be wasted by anyone or anything other than me. Yes, I still waste time in many ways, as it is only mine to waste. I spend hours looking at the clouds and the changing colors of the sky. Some may think this is a waste of time. It might be except that I enjoy it, and because I am using my time doing something I enjoy, it is not wasted.
The other thing I noticed about time in my approach to death is that I no longer have time to do the things I no longer want to do. In my youth I would often follow the crowd and do the activities they wanted to do. I often said, “Yes,” when I really wanted to say, “No.” I took the, “Why not,” approach to life. In those days I had plenty of time and wanted to experience more of life. Some things were rewarding and I am grateful for following another’s lead. Other things were disappointing and I am still grateful for following another’s lead. There were lessons learned from even bad experiences. Today I have the gift of not having to follow anyone. I am still considerate of another’s feelings but I no longer place them before my own. If something does not bring joy into my life, I simply do not do it. Joy is a difficult degree of measurement but it becomes easier to recognize with age and experience. We do not fully understand it when we are young. Youth is too momentary and fleeting, as it should be.
Time is the great resource of life. It is not renewable. When it is gone, it is gone. I have sustained my time as much as possible and will continue to sustain it until the moment of my death. But I will let you in on a little secret, there will not be any time left over from my life to add to your own. My time will be all used up living what remains in the best ways possible. Doing the things I love doing (reading, writing, thinking, dreaming) and sharing this precious gift with those I love.
However, like time itself, I wait for no man or woman. I no longer wait, period.
*Source Credit: Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse