The Affluence of Time

Recently, I have been reading about a shift in the American psyche related to how we define, and experience, affluence. Like most institutions of the 20th Century, affluence itself is undergoing a radical makeover, shifting from the mid-century model of keeping up with the Joneses, in which your collection of things, and the leisure time to enjoy, them were the primary indicators of affluence to a culture in which affluence is primarily defined by busyness.
Busyness, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘the state or condition of having a great deal to do, the quality of being excessively detailed or decorated.’ Busyness, evidenced by living one’s life from event to event, by constant contact, connectedness, and a carefully curated sense of frazzled urgency. Busyness, the reliance on texts to plan or forgive tardiness or absentia. Busyness, the manifestation of Fear of Missing Out. Busyness, the excuse for everything not gotten to, especially for lack of mindfulness or self-care. Busyness, as shaped by a society whose adults spend nine or more hours a day staring into screens. Busyness, as driven by the need to purchase a consumer product for every activity. Busyness, demonstrated through stress, through checking out on people and interactions but checking in to locations and social media. The more busy we have, the more important we are supposed to feel.
It used to be called the rat race. It used to be the thing we were trying to escape, the very thing we sought vacation from. It used to be the result of analog work, manual tasks, and participation in the world around us. Now, it shields us from those things.
This year, consider eliminating busy. The small bits, social media platforms, excessive children’s parties, relationships that drain rather than fulfill you, and the big chunks, traditions that are more work than joy, things you no longer enjoy, obligations which serve no clear purpose. Practice sitting still, doing nothing, in a quiet place. Take walks. Slow down. Revel in the delicious affluence of having time.

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