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16 May 2008

Time and Money


For several years now I've had this idea developing in the depths of my mind - periodically rising to the surface only to drift back down again as I become engaged in other things. You know how they say that time is money? Well, I have this sense that money, in one sense, is really time. Maybe that's not all it is, but I'm certain that it's part of it.
The way I first understood this concept was in terms of jobs. Looking back to when I was in high school I never liked the idea of jobs. There's something inhuman about them; the fact that you are compelled to do the same thing day after day for eight hours with a half-hour lunch break until you find something better, retire or die. It's almost impossible to escape too - even the people we think of as not having jobs (movie stars, athletes, musicians, etc.) have them too, only on different terms.
The way we're told to think about it is that we are selling our talents, abilities, or labor to a company for a certain period of time, but that's not how I see it anymore. Somehow that never truly made sense. Now, however, I understand that what we're actually selling is our lives. It seems so obvious when you think about it, but we're told not to think about it that way. We sell our lives away, hour by hour, to the highest bidder or for the most appealing form of work. Every hour that I spend at work is an hour that I could be reading a book, writing a book, listening to music, meditating, taking a class, swimming in a lake, watching a movie, eating cereal, making love to a woman, or just sitting on my ass. And I can't get that hour back! So how much is it worth? Is one hour of reading a book worth $10? $20? $10,000? Are all of my hours worth the same amount? Is 3:00 worth the same as 4:00? Is the morning worth the same as the evening or the afternoon? Is an hour of making love worth the same as an hour watching TV? Why should they all be counted equally? Then again, why is there so much difference between the value of one of my hours and the value of one of a CEO or a movie star? Is my life that much different than theirs? Hell, I bet they'd just waste their hours anyway, so aren't my hours actually worth more?!
But that's just the beginning. Money is time in so many other ways too. We sell our hours in which we could be doing so many other, more interesting, things, but then money can be used to buy those hours back too! Look, you can pay a little extra money for a meal that's already prepared, and there you have another hour back. You can buy clothes that are already made and there you have 4 hours. So many of our little transactions are merely buying back the time that we sold to somebody else. But at what cost? If I can buy back an hour in a meal, then who is selling that hour? Is it a fair trade (one hour for one hour) or am I buying somebody's three hours for the price of one? That girl in the sweatshop in Pakistan, how many hours did she sell to make my shirt?
Think about it. How do you sell your life? How do you buy it back? I promise, it will change the way you look at the world.

3 comments:

conor said...

that is a good perspective. think about the time then that we are are mining from the earth in the form of fossil fuel to subsidize our time. time that has accumulated over so long of a period. when will it catch up to us?
p.s. i have been so busy this week i havent even had time to come over and try the chicha, what are you doing tonight?

Jeremy Trombley said...

Excellent point, Conor, I hadn't even considered that. Buckminster Fuller makes a similar argument in several of his books.
Sorry the chicha's past it's prime. I'll make some again soon enough, though.

btmc said...

It is an interesting thought. New York City taught me alot about that. my coworkers at my shitty job hated coming to work, yet they saw no other way to live, they had no other way to use their time if it was earning or spending money. I believe it is possible to get so wrapped up, so indoctrinated into the time is money metaphor that you lose sight of time removed from value.
and I guess that is the thought that is rumbling about in my head. that the time is money, or money is time metaphor is harmful to our way of living, not only because we may not be spending in the most moral or even personally beneficial way, but just that we are Spending Time. by cutting it up, assigning it value, and giving or taking our lives on the global market, we are selling ourselves to an economic system that may or may not be benefiting our species, but we are also selling ourselves to the idea that our time, our value is quantifiable. I think I just want to live, not schedule my life. maybe that's just the anti disector in me, the anti planner, but that's what I thought when I read your post.
I like to read your firey writing Jeremy, sounding fresh and passionate. keep up the funk!

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