Someone, we hear, is just “wasting his time” in college, in the job he has, or on the person who fascinates him. Wasted time seems downright culpable. Our time should have been directed to more useful purposes. Instead, we frittered it away in some project that will never amount to much. We go this way only once. Best to make optimum use of the little time we are given.
Though not quite verbatim, I associate wasted time with The Little Prince. In my memory, the passage goes: “The only time that counts is the time that you waste with your friends.” The connotations of the word “waste” are rather curious.
Rumors to the contrary, we live in an abundant world. To prepare a good dinner, many things must be wasted. We eat the carrots but not its leaves. Rabbits, for all I know, may eat the leaves but not the carrots. What were called “garbage trucks” in my youth, are called “Waste Management Systems” today, even though they do the same thing. “Waste” sounds better than “garbage.”
When we bluntly disagree with someone’s opinion, however, we explode: “That’s just garbage!” This expression is more effective than: “Your views are a waste of breath.” But we do say of some talented person who has spent his life in frivolity: “What a waste!”
Yet the Saint-Exupéry reference has its truth. Nothing is worse than a conversation in which the person speaking to us is constantly checking the time and looking around the room. The body message is: “I have something more ‘important’ to do.”
And important things always remain to be finished. The highest things do not take place as if the world of useful things did not exist. Smaller things must occur before greater things can come into view. Every second of our lives is important in the sense that in it, we can do something that leads to damnation or to glory, depending on what it is.
Only the time we waste with our friends counts. Again, the world is filled with an abundance of time even in our limited life-spans. We can “make” things happen, or let them happen to us. The time we waste with our friends is precisely the time when we do not want to be anywhere else. We are already where we want to be.
*Image: A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by George Seurat, 1889 (completed) [Art Institute of Chicago] Note: Pointilism (originally a derisive term), as developed by Seurat and Paul Signac, involved the application of tiny dots of color, as seen below (from the area in A Sunday on La Grande Jatte just above the black dog):