Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Time is precious

As English essayist Charles Lamb (1775-1834) said, "New Year's Day is every man's birthday." January 1st certainly witnesses one of the world's biggest annual celebrations. It is the beginning of a new year, so our eyes are filled with new dreams and our hearts are replete with expectations. Many of us use the opportunity to make New Year's resolutions.

The New Year makes me think about time, which seems to pass more swiftly each year. From an objective viewpoint, time has neither color nor form, and neither quality nor substance. Yet, with strictness, it penetrates and governs life, society and the universe as a relentless force.

While meditating upon the passage of time, I am reminded of an insightful story my late grandfather once told me:

A wealthy man was near death. He had all the material possessions he wanted: a mansion, a private jet, pleasure boats and fancy cars. Yet his last words were, "I will offer all my possessions for a moment of time." Just before he passed away, the wealthy man realized he had always spent his time on foolhardy activities, not on his children's spiritual upbringing — and that was the most precious thing in the world. He undoubtedly wished he could live a little longer to provide his children with some words of wisdom, and undo the wrongful deeds of his past. Unfortunately, all his expensive possessions could not buy time.

Foolhardiness is the vandal of time. But if we can spot this vandal, we may be able to do whatever is necessary to prevent his acts. The crucial question becomes: "How do we stop the vandal of time?"

Before committing our time to any activity, we should ask ourselves the following question: "What will be the fruit of this activity?" If there may be negative consequences, we should not commit our time to such an endeavor. We should instead invest time in things that will make a difference in our families and communities.

When I examine my own life over the past ten years, I am sometimes frustrated that I hadn't greater results. But when I ask myself what will be important in another ten years, the first thing that comes to my mind is the spiritual backbone of my children.

In a decade, I may not speak to a dome full of people, write a best-selling book, or do anything that can be perceived as a mark of success. However, if my children become adults that show concern for the rights and feelings of others, I will be blessed.

Today my three children — aged 14, 12 and ten — are still young and have tender hearts filled with love, compassion and respect for life. To help them develop these essential human values and bloom into considerate grown-ups, I need to devote time to their spiritual upbringings. Since this doesn't always happen naturally, I must discipline myself to spend time thoughtfully and intentionally, remembering that someday I will have to feel sorrow for every moment wasted on foolhardy activities.

By Joel Assogba Shukan ST: January 1, 2010 (Published in Japan Times ST)

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