Foolish Delay

The tanks lined up baking in the Georgia sun. Soldiers were trying to find ways to best pass the time. Some were napping, others playing cards, and one was reading. I asked him if it was any good when he finished it. He said it wasn’t bad and then offered it to me. I accepted it desperately looking for something to do to take my mind off the monotony of the day.

It was The Tale of the Body Thief, one of the Vampire Chronicle books by Anne Rice. I remembered watching the movie in the theater a few years before. I enjoyed the movie and thought why not give this book a try. It was the first time since High School that I picked up a book to read solely for pleasure. The year was 1998 and became one the turning points in my life.

That year, I caught a bug. It was a reading bug that I hadn’t had since my elementary days. After finishing that book, I proceeded to read all the Vampire books. Then I read all of Rice’s witch books. Over the next few years, I discovered Wilbur Smith, George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and Bernard Cornwell, and read all the books I could get from them. When I was took a break from them, I went back to classics: Dickens and Dumas with a little Hemingway.

Then a time came in my life when I thought I could do that too. I could be a writer. And so I started to write. The ideas came from all over the place. I thought they were good. But my writing, it was bad. I struggled to convey my thoughts into words that would flow effortlessly onto paper. Yet I was determined to be a writer. After all, I had already told my closest friends that this was finally the calling in my life I had always been waiting for. I was going to make it work.

Then one day a seed of doubt entered my mind. I imagined all these writers were aged men and women of wisdom. I imagined that they had all lived lives full of experience, and only in their twilight years were they able to create their masterpieces. Who was I, one so young and naïve, to be able to compete with that? I had no life-skills other than that of an infantryman. Of the world, I knew very little. I was simply not ready to be a writer.

If you wish to be a writer, write. –Epictetus

I should have taken the philosopher’s advice. What I wanted to do wasn’t supposed to be easy. I wasn’t naturally talented, and at the time I lacked the discipline to keep practicing. When the motivation wore off, I postponed my dreams with the lame excuse of not being experienced enough. And how exactly was I going to get that experience if I wasn’t writing?

There is a silver lining in all of this reminiscing of a misspent dream. Somewhere deep within, I maintained a glimmer of hope that I could still be a writer. My appetite for reading never wavered, and in that I was still developing my literary mind. Of course if I would have kept practicing, my skills as a writer could have been much better. But as much as it pains me to think on this revelation, there is nothing I can do about it. The past is gone, never to be relived. But today, and the days to come, that is another story. That time is not yet spent and can be utilized toward that endeavor. I can become who I dream of being. I can become more disciplined. I can practice this craft and be the best I can be.

Epictetus asked, “How long are you going to wait before you demand the best of yourself?” It is a wise question worth keeping in mind. When standing before the Almighty on the Day of Judgment, you will not be asked how you measured up to your peers and fellow humans. There will be no comparison of bank accounts and social media likes on St. Peter’s ledgers. But if the Master asks you what you did with the talents He gave you, how will you answer? Will you say you buried them and kept them safe? Or will you take the talents you have been given and invest in them and let them grow? You can be a good steward of the gifts you have been given or you can be the lazy one? In the beginning I was the lazy one, but thankfully my eyes were opened before it was too late. In that I was fortunate to be given a second chance.

Lacking Sense

 

There was a time when those that wanted food had to go out and get it themselves. If they didn’t grow it, they had to catch it. If they didn’t do either one, they had to have something of value to trade for it. The more you wanted for you and your family, the harder you had to work for it. Even better if you worked your own land, instead of someone else’s.

It is much easier to get food these days. But if you want more than a miniscule ration, or if you want better quality, you are going to have to work for it. Maybe it is hearkening back to the old days and growing/catching it yourself. Or maybe, it is doing something of value worth trading. If you are working hard, working smart, and staying focused, you will be able to eat, and eat well.

Oftentimes we find ourselves getting off track. We lose that focus and start doing other things such as:

• Spending too much time engaged in social media,

• Reading material that does not enhance your life or cause your brain to think,

• Binge-watching some television,

• Playing games for the sake of killing time,

• Or doing busy work.

Sometimes we need a little downtime. Seneca in his 14th letter writes, “I do not maintain that the body is not to be indulged at all; but I maintain that we must not be slaves to it.” By becoming a slave to your body, you lose your self-control. Without discipline, your body will tell you to relax and put off the things you should be doing. It will tell you to procrastinate. Those who procrastinate, do not eat as well as the others.

The last point, doing busy work, is a killer that is often overlooked. It is easy to engage in busyness and never accomplish your primary mission. Tim Ferriss makes an interesting statement in his book, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers:

Being busy is a form of laziness –lazy thinking and indiscriminate action. Being busy is most often used as a guide for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.

Next time you find yourself doing busy work, you should ask yourself whether or not you are moving closer to your task. I find myself falling down this rabbit hole all the time without even realizing it. When I should be writing, I start cleaning the files on my computer or looking for a picture that correlates with the writing. I start doing all kinds of things, except the ones that are most important.

Solomon said that those engaged in idle pursuits lack sense. It is something to consider the next time we go on a marathon involving social media, all the episodes in whatever drama you’re watching, or knocking out the latest romance novel in one sitting. I know this is an area that I can improve in my own life.

If it is precious, then protect it.

Today, I find myself wanting to waste time. [Even writing that first sentence was a chore.] I wanted to write over the weekend, but I never got around to doing it. I slept in both weekend days. The residual effects of last week’s flu are still lingering, and the idea of sleeping in seemed to be a good use of my time.

I did not have a plan for the weekend. I did read a lot (started Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules of Life), but I didn’t write. I completed many items on my to-do list, except the one I deemed most important. I now have a backlog of handwritten stories. All I needed to do is type them up. And now these stories, if I don’t hurry and get them completed, will become in my mind less relevant. If they don’t get finished, they will most likely get shelved. Possibly, permanently.

The weekend went by quickly, but I had the same amount of time as everyone else. I didn’t make the best use of it. There was no sense of urgency. This reminds me of Seneca’s Letter on the Shortness of Life (XLIX):

In other years time did not seem to me to go swiftly; now, it seems fast beyond belief, because I feel that the finish-line is moving closer to me, or it may be that I have begun to take heed and reckon up my losses.

When I consider the things I should have done but did not do, time is indeed moving swiftly. This is a lesson to make the most of the time alotted to us. This is a lesson to not waste time, a lesson to not let it slip away carelessly. If time is truly precious, then it is our duty to protect it. Seneca goes on to write:

Show me that the good in life does not depend upon life’s length, but upon the use we make of it; also, that it is possible, or rather usual, for a man who has lived long to have lived too little.