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Taking time, not wasting it

hourglass sand time

Min C. Chiu | Shutterstock

Joseph Pearce - published on 08/01/23 - updated on 08/04/23

We can’t make time. We can’t simply refill our individual hourglass so that we become immortals, living in this world forever. 

The great Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, said that each of us is “soft sift in an hourglass.” Each of us has our own allotted time on earth. The sands of time are ceaselessly falling from that part of our life which we still have to spend to that part of it which is already spent. When the sand runs out, our lives in this vale of tears and land of exile will come to an end.   

Since this is so, it’s important that we pay attention to time, that priceless and finite resource which is slipping through our fingers. 

We can’t make time. We can’t simply refill our individual hourglass so that we become immortals, living in this world forever. 

And since we can’t make time, we have a very simple choice with respect to the time that we have. Do we take it or do we waste it?

Time taken is time well spent. Time wasted is time squandered.

Taking time is taking time out. It is finding the space and the silence to sit in the presence of beauty. It is a retreat from the noise and busy-ness of our daily schedules. It is opening our eyes to the glories of God’s Creation and to the reflected and refracted glories of man’s sub-creation in art and literature. It is also the closing of our eyes so that we can listen to the singing of birds or the singing of choirs. And of course, we need to take time to spend in the presence of God in prayer. Such time taken is the most joyful part of the day, a time when we are in communion with reality.

Wasting time is allowing ourselves to succumb to mindless distraction. It is losing ourselves in that lesser or virtual reality that our techno-addicted culture provides. It is choosing trash, triteness, and trivia instead of the treasures of goodness, truth, and beauty. It is forgetting the words of the Gospel that where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also. 

If we wish to store up treasure in heaven, we need to take time and not waste it. We need to take time in the silence of prayer or the silence of poetry. We need more time with trees and less time with trivia. A tree, or a flower, or a sunset are priceless gifts for which a lack of gratitude is a sin of omission. We cannot ever be wasting time when we’re taking it in wonder-filled contemplation of the goodness of God’s beauty.


This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.

The Human Being Fully Alive
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