In 1965, American writer Harlan Ellison published the multiple award-winning short story “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman”; a dystopian fantasy depicting a world in which the machinery of civilization is rigidly governed by the clock, by strict adherence to schedules and an unerring observation of deadlines. In Ellison’s cautionary tale, time has become so precious that to waste even a minute of it is punishable by having an equal amount of time subtracted from one’s lifespan, via the programmed cardioplate given each citizen. Into this lunatic world comes the masked hero popularly known as the Harlequin. His mission: to disrupt schedules, to disregard deadlines, to be … late! (Sound like anyone you know?)
Ellison once acknowledged that he was notorious for being late, and here the writer no doubt enjoyed the opportunity to respond to his critics. In his story, however, the actions of our hero have come under the scrutiny of a terrifying government agency that holds over the citizenry the power of life and death — no, not the IRS — the office of the dreaded Master Timekeeper! Feared by all, and infamously nicknamed the Ticktockman, the Master Timekeeper estimates that the Harlequin has cost the people so much time, that he has completely exhausted his own quota of minutes, days, years. So the Ticktockman vows that if he ever learns the secret identity of the masked man, he will terminate his cardioplate.
In a world where time is the single most precious commodity, the Harlequin is bankrupt! Our poor hero truly has run out of time! So then what happens? Ellison’s tale is allegedly one of the ten most reprinted stories in the English language. You should have no difficulty finding and reading it. It’s a fun piece of rollercoaster prose, but we mention it not because we’re advocates of habitual tardiness: showing up fashionably late for every occasion may look cool, but it’s a bad habit that can easily backfire; and although tardy people never take time to analyze their actions, they ultimately are showing a disregard for the rights and feelings of those they inconvenience. No one likes to be kept waiting. (Uh, please consider this a special public service message. We now resume our regularly scheduled post, already in progress.)
What we’d like to share with dreamers today is that TIME IS A COMMODITY. We never want to reach the point where we’re obsessed with it or bound by it; but since each of us is allotted just 24 hours a day to accomplish multiple tasks, we need to spend our time wisely. If we’re actively pursuing a dream, trying to reach a goal, then we’ll always have important things to do, places to go, people to see. So, we can’t afford to squander our time on unproductive activities that don’t add value to our physical, emotional or spiritual well-being — and which don’t get us any closer to our goals.
Okay, let’s clarify something: we periodically take time to go for a walk, play a board game, or watch a good movie. We need such diversions to help keep our sanity. But maintaining a balance is essential. And if you have unfulfilled dreams, you need to stay focused. Ben Franklin once said, “Time is money.” Not exactly true, but close enough. Time is a valuable resource you can’t replenish. When it’s gone … it’s gone! If you view time the same way you should be viewing money, then you’ll have a better grasp of how important time is, and how to maintain the proper balance. Example: You get paid (you have some time on your hands), but how will you spend your resources? You first need to take care of some nagging debts (social obligations); then you decide to invest for your future (devote time to achieving your dreams); finally, you have something leftover and you decide to spring for a mocha latte and a Cinnabon (you spend some leisure time, doing something absolutely mindless, if you want, like playing tiddlywinks).
Don’t be obsessed, but never lose sight of the bigger picture. Spend your time wisely. Remember, the next time you’re goofing off (excessively so), that instead, you could be hatching grand schemes and chasing big dreams!
(It’s our favorite sport!)
Next time we’ll examine the flip-side of this issue, and discuss the importance of being a Time Lord, not a Time Hoard! Please don’t be late, friends!
“…Walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (1 Corinthians 5:15-16 ESV)