Tuesday 20 February 2024

Golden Minutes: This moment may count for all, and yet there is no hurry

Two things both seem true, although - in a way - they might superficially seem opposite. 

One is that every minute counts, in the sense that a minute is a long time in the depths of our thinking. A really tremendous amount of thinking can be done, without any sense of hurry, in a minute - if we are in the right circumstances and frame of mind. 

So, it is as-if time expands to allow thinking - if or when that thinking is of high quality. It is as if all of our mortal life might be transformed, or justified, in one golden minute.  

The other thing is that we don't have to be efficient in Life. Indeed, the attempt to use our life efficiently can be a terrible mistake. 

So it would be accurate to say that we cannot be efficient in life as it is meant to be lived

It's a bit like the error of being always "busy". To be busy and efficient and yet to live our life well, would require that we already knew in advance what ought to be the aims of our life (at various ages, circumstances and stages) and how that ought to be achieved...

Clearly it is not a good idea deliberately to waste time in our finite life that may end at any moment. Yet, on the other hand, should we really try to be worrying, timing, and organizing every minute for optimal efficiency?  

An "efficient" life, with every moment, every day, every year (!) "well used" would require that we already knew just exactly what we ought to be doing - and the problem was simply to Do It...

Yet, that isn't the case for many people - perhaps it isn't the case for anybody at all. We are actually finding our way through life; and (it seems to me) that:

The Most Important Thing is to be ready for those "golden minutes" when they arrive.   

This must mean leaving a broad margin to the business of living, so that such things can happen, and that we can recognize when they do - and "drop everything" to attend to them as they deserve and need.

There must be a lightness of spirit and a real seriousness about the ultimate things; which seems at an opposite extreme from the too common, too generally-approved, busy, "every moment purposive and filled", focus on the expediencies of everyday living. 

Yet if our life becomes a matter of acting-out a play that we ourselves have written - then there is not much point to actually living it; since all "best" possibilities are fore-known! 

Maybe something like this is a problem for serious Christians - the mistaken ideal of filling life with "Christian things", so there is no room for anything else (e.g. any "sin"). 

(Much of this Christian busyness seems to be about "justifying ourselves"; either to other-people - IRL or maybe online; or perhaps justifying ourselves to our-selves. As such; this is largely negative - a matter of trying to avoid criticism/ self-criticism. It seems obvious to me that following Jesus is not meant to be negatively-motivated - however much churches may imply or enforce otherwise.) 

On the other hand; the opposite is perhaps the besetting sin of mainstream secular people - that is drifting passively along the surface of "life" - as "life" is defined by some combination of the mass media, officialdom and the work-place; and/or or by other external pressures and motivators such as "social media", gossip, responding to requests, or even good works. 

Such things also "fill" life, and create exactly the wrong kinds of circumstances and mind-set for the golden minutes to arise and occupy.

(I hope the inadequacy and harmfulness of living in accordance with the mainstream is obvious to readers, without requiring further detail or argument.)  

It seems to me that although mainstream drifting, while immersed in the evils of mass-social media - is the most obvious form of passivity with respect to Life - an ignoring of the real business of living; on the other hand, busyness and efficiency is also a subtle snare: a less-obvious but perhaps lethally-effective way of wasting life, and ensuring that the Reallest and Goodest things (those Golden Minutes) are much less likely to happen; and (if they do happen) our minds will be preoccupied with "other business", such that we will not want to break-off from our planned-programme, and Actually Live Them... 

There is no formula for life - not even the formulae of Good Christians - and, because there is no formula, busy efficiency is not a valid life-strategy. 

(As usual...) It turns-out that living and values are about motivations, ultimately. 

This actual world we inhabit is - in a global and comprehensive way that is literally-impossible to avoid - deeply unconducive to Christian living. So that insofar as we are busy and efficient and planned; we will almost certainly be doing the wrong things, and blocking the right things. 

But equally any form of passivity, or living by reacting, of acting from external guidance and motivation - is also wrong. 

Maybe we should consider the most important thing in our life to be Golden Minutes, so that our first job is to enable God the Creator to arrange-for these in our particular lives. 

Our second job, and the completion of the opportunity, is then to recognize our Golden Minutes, and be ready and willing fully to engage with them.  


Ed said...

Would "watchful waiting" be a good term for this approach?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ed - Yes - that's half of it.

But we must also be sure to take an active attitude to life (as I say here: https://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2024/02/what-psychology-does-new-age.html ).

So we need to wait watchfully, but in an overall context of regarding our life as spiritual, as active; therefore as a spiritual quest.

Colin said...

Thanks Bruce. Helpful.
Something I have been reflecting on in recent weeks.

I like ‘Golden Minutes’. Along with thinking I include other minutes/moments such as co-creating and being present with others, and sensing God more than normal.

And the rest of the time - endeavouring for minimal optimal handling of functional living. To be ready and available as you say.

Days of Lot said...

This really resonates. Since adulthood I realize I've been going for optimal efficiency. As a child I may have experienced more golden minutes because I wasn't trying to fill every moment with activity. Being busy all the time is praised these days, but I can sense that life isn't supposed to be lived this way. This is one of my favorite posts you've ever written -- thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Bonald said...

This is helpful, because I have been thinking about something related lately. I sometimes feel frustrated that I am not throwing myself whole-heartedly into some grandiose "big project", but use up most of my time either in short-term father or faculty duties or in what feels like fumbling around because I'm not sure what I should be doing with my life, to the extent that I have freedom to direct it. However, I have begun to suspect that this is the wrong way to see things. If God wanted each of us to order his whole life to a specific task, He would surely communicate this task clearly and early on. Presumably the struggle to figure out what to do is an experience He intended for us, so it must not be time wasted.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Colin and TtL - Thanks.

@Bonald - "Presumably the struggle to figure out what to do is an experience He intended for us, so it must not be time wasted."

Yes. I think I got this from Arkle - the insight (as I regard it) that the world seems to be set-up to reveal God's preference that *as much as possible* we work-out things for our-selves.

God can, and does, step-in with direction and guidance when necessary - but it seems like this is a second-best from the divine perspective. Plan A is (apparently) that we are allowed to make mistakes and muddle our way towards truth.

G said...

Good. My comment: https://www.jrganymede.com/2024/02/22/the-golden-minute/

Bruce Charlton said...

Thanks, G.