We moved, and downsized (sort of) – after 28 years at our wonderful previous home..The move came just before COVID-19 presented a particularly difficult challenge for many. I have, until recent days, been kept naturally busy on the issues and tasks that are a part of moving home. I am now feeling unusually organised and my mind has turned to a concern about wasting time due to the physical limits that have been imposed, at least temporarily, on life as we knew it. My life in the past has been one of deadlines, problem solving, to-do lists. Never a dull moment. Busy but balanced. Even reflecting on how to not waste time in this COVID era seemed a waste of time.
Talking with Ruth, about this – for me – rather unusual line of thought, she gave me a recent article by Joyce Rupp, an American author and speaker, mostly in the area of spirituality. Rupp points out that although COVID-19 insists on keeping most of us at home, within the confines of our temporary prison, there is always something or someone on which we can focus our devoted care, while not necessarily seeing an immediate benefit of doing so.
It might even be something thorny to focus on – a belligerent child, an ungrateful spouse, a friend constantly phoning with the same sad, depressing story. Or it might be something more enjoyable – a happy, loving family, a hobby, a pet, even a sunny seat out in the garden. We can choose something to invest in by giving away our precious time – but not wasting it.
Rupp gave an example of her 3-year-old niece spending weeks in her parents’ backyard just gazing at a tomato, watching the sun ever so slowly turn its green skin to a ripened red. The young niece waited patiently for several long weeks before finally biting triumphantly into that juicy red-ripe tomato. Rupp ponders whether her niece will recall the value and joy of ‘wasting time’. Will she retain the kind of inner feeling that recognises how good it is to simply care for what calls to one’s heart, trusting this time spent is worthwhile?
Netflix last year produced a movie based on the well-known classic ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – in the latter part of the Second World War. I ‘wasted’ some time watching it recently. A childrens’ story, it has many relevant, contemporary messages, but it contains a famous quote “It is the time you have wasted on your rose that makes your rose so important”. Wasting time implies having nothing to show, no immediate return for devoted and loving attention, simply being present with appreciation. The little prince comes to realise in the end that the time spent with his single rose was what made it special, different from the thousands of other roses. He says “People where you live, (i.e us busy, time deficient, statistic-driven grown-ups) grow five thousand roses in one garden… Yet they don’t find what they’re looking for… And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose.” The Little Prince finally declares his secret “…a very simple secret: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”. It’s this invisibility that often tries to convince us we are wasting time.
Calmly setting aside the to-do list, even in these COVID-driven times, and lovingly focusing on who or what we value, just might bring peace and some easing of anxiety.
Wasting time can have value, ultimately give joy. At the end of our life, maybe it won’t be our productive activity, our numerical achievements, the results of our to-do lists, but the time we wasted on our rose that we realise gives us the greatest comfort and has the greatest value.