Today I've got some "Free" time. What exactly does that mean?
Our entire economy is built on this metaphor:Time is Money. We give our time in work, in exchange for money- that's the most obvious part of the metaphor. More subtle is the idea of 'free' time.
"Free" has been made into a marketing strategy. It's sometimes portrayed as a reward- buy this thing, and get this other thing for 'free'. Do we think about free time this way, as well?
I've purchased my free time, through working. I can 'afford' this time, to not be working. But then, what shall I do with this time, that I have earned? How shall I 'spend' my free time?
It starts to feel a bit silly, the more I write. Okay, okay- I can hear you say- we get it. Time is Money, so what?
Well, I'm thinking about this because of the pressure the metaphor puts on the day. Spending my free time becomes a decision that is heavy-weight. The metaphor affects how I feel: the time is precious. I've earned it. I should not Waste my time. How will I get the most Value out of my Free Time?
This line of thought, so unconsciously full of the money metaphor, often paralyses me when I am faced with this choice about time. Impulses to relax, or do nothing that could be called 'productive' become morally suspect. I might as well just scatter twenty-dollar bills on the grass! Waste!! Waste!! And the pressure builds: what shall I do with this time? How shall I make use of it? How will I justify the way I've 'spent' the day?
Ideas about productivity infuse our culture so thoroughly that it is difficult to notice the effect. But once you begin to pay attention to this, it's easy to see the way stress creeps into our thinking. Unstructured play, reading for pleasure, walking just to look at the leaves in fall- these things can be squeezed out by the hidden vice of productivity. How can one call such activities 'useful'? What good does it do to buy such activities with my hard-earned time?
And so I begin to consider more 'valuable' uses: housework, unfinished projects, yard work, class preparation, writing for business... and gradually the spark begins to fade out of the day, and time becomes Money, again.
But we can choose the metaphors we use. We can choose.
What if TIme isn't MONEY, all the time. What if TIme is Life?
And then the question becomes: What shall I do with this LIfe?