Life out of balance

May 21, 2007

“Eight hours work, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest” was one of the guiding maxims of the modern labor movement, and it strikes us now as remarkably balanced and logical. (Schopenhauer pointed out that, a generation or so after truths are rejected as wild-eyed radicalism, they are accepted as common sense.) The three parts of the working human’s life, when served in equal portion, feed into and enhance one another: an honest day’s work helps you sleep more soundly and lets you enjoy your recreation with the satisfaction that you’ve already done your part for society; a suitable amount of recreation allows you to sleep and work without the dread of not having accomplished what you wanted to that day; and sufficient sleep keeps your energy level high during any pursuit.

Readers, I am obliged to admit that I cannot comply with such a logical system. You see, I spent all last week working at a temporary job, between 8 and 10 hours each day. And my life fell apart. My French lessons stopped entirely, my output on this website slowed to the most meager trickle, and my reading faltered. I pushed back my bedtime every night in an attempt to fight my lost recreation time and, as a result, I was increasingly tired as the week progressed.

I am obliged to admit as well, incisive readers, that I would have had time for these things if only I had developed a schedule for myself. If, say, dinner were followed by 45 minutes of French lessons which were followed by a mixture of blog and book reading until bedtime, things could have worked out much better than they did. Instead, I followed my whims and wiled away my time.

Wasted time has always been a source of intense shame for me and accounts for the difficulty that I’ve had in finding lasting employment. Almost every job I see, I interpret as a waste of my time and consequently don’t apply. Yet at the same time, I have trouble developing a schedule for myself because of its essential rigidity. I am stuck between the problems of not getting everything done that I want to and the problems of being a cog.

There is so much that I want to do, though, that I wonder: is there any alternative except discipline?

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