Jenny Odell

‘Even if you get better at having your time be protected, that doesn’t answer the question of what you want to use your time for and what your values are. There’s also this irony where, in situations in the past, I felt like I needed to protect my time more so that I could do things that I wanted, and it obscured the fact that what I wanted was a sense of connection and meaning, and in order to get that I would have to do something that looked like giving my time away. Since you mentioned kids: A couple of weeks ago, I was hanging out with a friend who has a 3-year-old, and it took us half an hour to walk two blocks. There is a way in which, as you were saying, you could view that experience as potentially boring, but you could also see that the reason we were walking slowly is that kids are looking at stuff in a weird way! It’s a way I appreciate trying to imagine. For time spent like that, the whole question of “What are you getting out of this?” would be absurd…

For me, there’s the question of why you do anything. That can lead into difficult territory like, What do you want your life to be? Ideally your answers to that question are what guide your decisions about how to spend your time. You would hope that you are spending less time on things that you don’t want to be doing so you can do things that you’ve decided are meaningful to you, and I think that there’s something about that culture of making everything more efficient that risks avoiding that question of why. A life of total efficiency and convenience? Well, why? What is left if you were to make everything superconvenient? It is helpful to make certain things more efficient, but that can tip over into becoming its own end, which moves the focus away from that larger question of why.’ (from the New York Times)

Several comments to this article pointed out the privileged nature of even being able to pose these kinds of questions, but I think there is great value in not losing ight of why we do anything in life. After leaving Zen Center I have been pretty explicitly allowing myself more time, even though it means I have less money.

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