What is the most human of timescales? We measure our age in years, but is this the best choice to define our life?
I hadn’t understood how days could be both long and short at the same time: long to live through, maybe, but so drawn out that they flow into one another. They lost their names. Only the words “yesterday” and “tomorrow” still had any meaning for me.
– Albert Camus
This is the life of a prisoner, the eponymous Stranger. At the risk of sounding existential, this could also be the life of any of us. I don’t believe life is a prison, but I believe we have the potential to make it so.
The problem with prison, or rather the point of it, is to remove the prisoner’s freedom. In other words, it is to remove the prisoner’s ability to to spend his time. I say “spend” partially because of the common idiom comparing time and money, but mostly because I lack a better metaphor.
How often do we find ourselves without the ability to spend our own time? This is a prison of our own making. The analogy breaks down here, though. The prisoner is unable to escape the bars that contain him, while we allow the bars to construct themselves. To a certain degree, society creates a few outside of our individual control. But I’d argue the well travelled paths that social constructs provide us are well worth the price of some small obligations.
Beyond these obligations, how do you spend your time? And maybe more importantly, how do you measure it?