Filling Time: Thawing the Rush for Efficiency

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Filling the Time: Thawing the Rush for Efficiency

As I put ice cubes from the freezer down the narrow neck of my favorite insulated water bottle, I consider that I could have saved time had I started this task differently. While the structure of my waterbottle is not  a dry subject about which to write or read, I need to take a moment to explain the structure of my beloved white Contigo thermos for all of this to make sense. My vinyl-sticker-festooned bottle is made of three pieces:
  1. The cap, at the top
  2. The mouth-contoured collar (the cap above and the base below screw onto it)
  3. The one-liter base
As I push the ice in, one cube at a time, through the narrow top, an internalized negative voice declares (seemingly with intent to shame), “You should have unscrewed the lid. It would have been more efficient.” *** I defend myself: “It would take longer to unscrew the collar and put it back on than the amount of time it would save to fill with lesser efficiency.” And then I come to, realizing that these are the thoughts I am having. *** Another voice in my head speaks slowly, deliberately. “Hey, Brian, what’s with the tyranny of saving time?” *** Thomas Merton *Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander*:
“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
*** If the recipe says to “cook for 4-5 minutes,” I’ll routinely proceed to the next step after three minutes and forty-five seconds.3:45. I rush. I succumb to that violence. Sometimes I don’t take a shower because I can save that time. Sometimes, in the shower, I don’t soap up everywhere because I can save that time, and “How dirty did I get, really?” Sometimes I don’t wash my hands after going to pee because I can save that time. I can’t imagine Thomas Merton doing those things. *** And what have I been doing with all the saved time? Getting more done! But for what? A quote attributed to Gandhi: “Stop the glorification of busy.” *** Beloved. Starting in January 2024, I started a new policy of spending the time I have saved. I figure in my decades of life to this point, I must have accumulated at least 100 hours of saved time. Let me spend it. Cooking foods a little longer. Walking more slowly. Taking more pauses. Washing my hands after I pee. Slowly enjoying the ice-cold water from my thermos. *** Work doesn’t stop. So, we must.

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