I was finally tempted into buying issue 41 of the Idler the other day, and am now very glad that I succumbed on this occasion. Page 29 introduces an article titled "The Truth About Time", written by Brian Dean of Anxiety Culture. It does a neat little job of breaking down our (namely the UK, but others are included) approach to time-management, and the rather "odd" manner in which we are very rarely focusing on what we're doing right now, but always looking at some deadline in the (relatively short-term) future.
The alternative pointed out is a slightly more abstract idea of "dancing" with time, where one focuses on the present moment, but in a grounded relationship with both the past and the future - resulting in longer-term plans (Japanese 50-year business "plans", for example) and a more "incremental" approach to achieving them. "Our" approach, on the other hand, dispenses with a step-by-step movement by constantly fixing our sight on the next "hurdle", and so short-term gains end up winning out over both the "present" and the long-term benefits.
IMHO, the same attitude has infiltrated out general lifestyles as well. Our common perspective on happiness, for instance, is to focus on saving up cash to purchase the next "hit". No matter what form it takes - a holiday (sorry, "experience"), a games console, or a late-night beer session - the emphasis is still on getting through the "dull" bits in order to arrive at the next milestone for a "well-earned" spat of enjoyment.
Perhaps this explains our cruddy relationship with the elder generation, and our increasing fixation with looking (and acting) ever younger. Age reminds us of time, something we've grown to ignore because the yin-yang ideas of responsibility and now-ness scare us to wittery-buggery. So we spend our days trying desperately to distract ourselves from them, in an endless loop of trying to grab the next small wave, the latest promise of beauty, or glory.
Maybe managing our time is like categorising parts of a river, then. The more fences we put in to work out where we are, the more we end up seeing only fences, and ignoring the fact that the river is stagnating into puddles around us.
Happy thoughts for a bank holiday weekend, then. Go and grab a copy, find that sunny patch, and Idle Away.