I still remember a science fiction story that struck a chord in me way back in the past. The hero lives in a huge mansion and works for only one day a week with all the other days given over to amusement. Being low on the social totem pole, he mopes around all day dreaming about a future when he would have risen far enough in society to be able to live in a cozy one room flat and work for six days a week!
A somewhat similar story is one of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer adventures. Tom is punished with having to whitewash the fence. While he is at it his friends come around and jeer at him. Tom claims that his job is important and cannot be entrusted to anyone who cannot do it with the competence and efficiency that he himself can bring to it. The net result of his reluctance to hand over the job to anyone is that all the boys in the village end up bribing him for the privilege of whitewashing the fence. The tale ends with ‘…if he had not run out of whitewash, he would have bankrupted every boy in the village’.
In both the above tales we find people aspiring to do things merely because they are hard to get and valued by society. Makes you think about the choices you make and how far these choices are driven by your innate needs and how much by your own perception of what is valued by society. The idea of making personal sacrifices – be it time, effort or money – in order to gain the approbation of others, who, in their turn, are similarly engaged in gaining your approbation seems funny but that does seem to be the reality that we live in now.
We do not know whether we, in isolation, choose the lifestyles that we feel that we have to live of whether we do it because that is the way all our peers live. We sacrifice time to earn the wherewithal to lead the lifestyle that we have apparently chosen but earning money acquires a life of its own and, so, we earn far in excess of what we can spend even at these lifestyles. The one thing that we appear to value the least is the one thing that we have very little of – Time! Oh! Yes! We do keep bemoaning the lack of time to do all that we have to do but, as is evident, we have made our choices of what we will do without taking into account the value of the time we are dribbling away in doing it. If you truly valued time you would decide on what you want to do with your time and then balance the need to earn money with the need to use time to suit yourself.
Not everyone in this vale of tears is in a position to make the choice. The basic needs need no peer pressure to enforce satisfaction and he who is yet to assure himself of his basic requirements leads a life of little choice. Poverty steals life in more ways than one and one of the insidious ways in which it does it is by denying a person free use of his time. To be in a position to choose the use of one’s time and to not exercise it is to lead a life of poverty when not required to do so and what can be more stupid than that?
If, indeed, you prefer living in a cozy one room flat and work six days a week do so if that is what you want to do. If your idea of fun is to whitewash a fence all day who am I to criticize it? If, however, you do either because of peer pressure or, worse still, due to mere force of habit then it shows more than mere material poverty. It is a poverty of imagination that beggars description.