September 27, 2022   

How You Spend Time

As much as we love freedom, we hate it too. And, as much as we hate responsibility, we love it too. So we have to juggle both to find the sweet spot. For instance, we don’t want too much or too little “free time.”

What you gain from spending time is inseparable from who you are. When the subject disengages, time simply passes; you are not “spending” it. Entertainment, like mindless TV shows, does not require the active engagement of the subject. That is, you do not make something of yourself by watching it, resulting in the feeling that time “passed” because the subject is missing from the experience. This is the same reason you feel alienated when the product of your labor does not reflect who you are.

The engagement of the subject is the key difference between art and entertainment. Art challenges you to think for yourself. You can’t get anything from art if you don’t accept this challenge.

In other words, for the time spent to be interesting, you have to be an interesting person. Having too much free time can reveal how boring you are, which is not a pleasant experience. But, no matter how interesting you are, you cannot amuse yourself indefinitely.

The opposite of “free time” is the time you are obligated to spend. The obligation can come from other people or circumstances—external forces demanding you to spend the time for specific reasons. Being told what to do is existentially liberating because these forces validate your worth; you feel needed/wanted.

The problem with having only “free time” is that you’d have to engender this sense of self-worth on your own. It necessarily becomes masturbatory. So, social engagement is necessary for happiness (or rather sanity), and “demand” is a necessary constituent of engagement introduced between a mother and an infant.

Unlike money, everyone gets the same amount of time in a day. So, how someone spends time reveals more poignantly who he is. It reflects his priorities in life and what he finds meaningful.