In my previous post, ‘The Ultimate Object of the Improvement of Time’, I spoke about the final chapter of the first part of ‘An Essay on the Improvement of Time’ by John Foster. We will now consider the first chapter of the second part of Foster’s essay which is entitled, ‘Thoughts on Indolence’.
For those of us who wondered what indolence means (myself included when I first read it) it is defined as avoidance of activity or exertion; laziness. I will alternate in usage between laziness and indolence. I should stipulate before I start that in this part of the essay Foster is very direct and extremely straight forward on his opinions about the abuses of time. I have not attempted to soften any of his opinions but tried to regurgitate them the way that they have impacted me, he is found speaking to the reader in a lot of this section and my writing will reflect that influence.
Indolence is a despicable trap and the complete enemy to the improvement of time. It is something we must seek to oppose at every turn. The odd thing is that many of us are not even aware of the problem. We set about a task and eventually get around to completing it. The problem is that it takes us ten times longer to complete the task than necessary. Is that a problem you ask? Well if you were charged ten times the amount for your cup of coffee at Starbucks would you be upset? Then why are you not upset at yourself charging ten times the amount of time for one task? The fact is that if you saw a child being lazy and not completing their assigned work (be it dishes, tidying their room or school work) would you not chide them for not applying themselves better? Yet you do the very same thing when you fail to apply yourself and you let your work, home, or self-improvement gather dust while you twiddle your thumbs! Be aware of hypocrisy.
Vacancy or idleness is a dangerous type of indolence. A vacant person is busy about but achieves nothing, appearing to be busy, but truly they are vacant in what they do. And the idle person is far worse, for they sit and watch the days go by. They may stand and observe some people travelling past their house. They may look at facebook and make comments or share information for a time. Maybe they will watch TV in order to “vegetate” for awhile. It is a dangerous folly to fall into, for you will often not realise you are doing it. How many of you have not fallen into the trap where you do not realise that you are actually spending time achieving nothing until it is too late? Who has not spent an extended period of time mindlessly looking at a TV, a computer, a magazine, a book, a sports game, only to say, “What did I do the last few hours?” or “What was the point of that?” Maybe your conscience is so dulled with indolence that you no longer feel the prangs that come when idleness is afoot. If so, allow your conscience to be renewed now so that may be aware of the idleness in your own life.
Another type of indolence is the person who sleeps too much. Foster spends the rest of the chapter devoted to this problem as he sees it as the biggest problem. I am conscious of adding at this point that Foster states that the perfect amount of sleep is six hours, seven for those who work in very laborious industries, I am aware that lots of modern research show that eight hours is the perfect amount. I am not going to argue what is the perfect amount, I will leave that up to the reader to consider how much is a good amount of sleep. Personally, it is my view that six to seven hours is a good amount, up to eight for those who seem to require a bit more sleep, but I will leave it at that, judge for yourself what is right.
Consider that if you live the same amount as your neighbour and he rises one hour earlier each day, that, in his lifetime he will do much more to prepare himself for eternity, even though he is given the same amount of time. And notice that if you sleep for nine or more hours a day that you come near to spending half of your life in a state of non-existence. Yes, I mean non-existence, you may be existing, but it is a non-existing for you spend it doing nothing. Of course, we must spend a certain portion of our time asleep for the sake of nourishing our bodies, that is how our creator made us. Non-necessary sleep is a dreadful waste of the time given us by our Lord. We will all answer for how we have used our gifts and time is one of them. Will you be like the foolish servant who buried the talents his master gave him? Or will you use them and reap a bounty of one, ten or even one hundred times back?
Think of it another way. Imagine your closest family member or friend is dreadfully ill. They have been told they may not last through the night. You receive the phone call and are told that the person on their death bed desperately wants to see you one last time. Now you hang up the phone, go for a walk, check your emails, visit some other friends, read Facebook, have some dinner and go to bed. You rise late to discover that your loved one is dead. How would you feel? How should you be treated? If you did that then you deserve to be spurned by friends and family alike, for it shows a complete contempt for your loved ones. But the truth is that all of us do this day in and day out. We sleep the day away and meanwhile there are people all around us dying and heading to an eternity in hell. There are brothers and sisters who desperately need our support and we ourselves desperately need to be pursuing Christ.
Maybe you are still not convinced. Maybe you still feel that you are justified to sleep as much as you wish. Let me provide you with a few reasons why sleeping too much is evil.
- If you had been awake for the two or three hours you overslept and had spent that time wisely, would it not have been an honourable thing in the Lord’s sight? If so then to sleep is to commit wrong for it stops the honourable.
- If you think there is nothing that you could have done honourably with your time, let me ask, why are you on this earth? Are you put here to take but not to give back? There is always honourable actions required of all people.
- “But”, you say, “I will achieve these honourable things at 10am and not 7am!” The problem is that at 1pm you are doing 10am’s work and at 3pm you are doing 12pm’s jobs. This continues until the end of the day where you cannot complete the last three hours worth of honourable tasks.
- Maybe you do not have any tasks to complete. Is there any improper habit in your life? Any sin? Any vice? Anything lacking? If so, which I am sure there is, then every moment you sleep and do not deal with these sinful flaws is another moment where these sinful flaws fester and grow.
- Are you not appalled by a man who goes on a drug spree and sleeps for multiple days? Do you realise that you waste more time in a year then he does? Yet you despise him and honour yourself?
The problem is not that you feel justified to sleep, but rather that you fail to realise what good can be achieved in the time that you sleep. If you realised how much could be achieved in those moments and contemplated how many you have slept away, the truth is, you would be just as sorrowful as John Foster. How much time have we all wasted that the Creator has given us?
Anyone who suffers from sleeping too much is instantly challenged in this regard when they meet someone who is studious with their time. They meet a sister who rises early to use her time well and commit herself to the Lord. They meet a brother who starts his day early so he can achieve much at work. When faced with a person as such, your conscience is struck regarding your oversleep. You will wish internally that you could do what he or she does. So often this will happen to us in our life and we will just shrug it off and shake it away before it takes root in our heart.
If you are to make a change, however, you need a good reason do you not? Let me describe what you could achieve from a little less sleep. If you normally sleep for nine hours and instead you slept for seven, consider the impact on your life. You have now gained two hours extra every day, fourteen hours every week, sixty hours a month and seven hundred and thirty every year. If we take seven hundred and thirty and divide it by seventeen (the number of awake hours) you find that you have in one year gained approximately forty-three days. What could you achieve if your boss said you could have an extra forty-three days leave each year! Now consider this. It takes approximately one thousand hours to become a genius at anything. Now stop for a second, think of something you would dream of being a genius at. Piano? Cooking? Writing? Speaking? Business? Sports? Now realise, that with the above scenario in fourteen years you could be a genius at whatever you picked. Only fourteen! That is not that much! How many lots of fourteen years have you lived already? (I am mid way through my third lot already, I could be part way through my second category of genius already). In forty-five years you could be a genius piano player (we are talking Mozart level), a genius rocket scientist and a genius Biblical scholar with all original languages in place. Now I may be oversimplifying this. But the point remains. It is actually quite amazing what you could achieve by deciding to rise two hours earlier each day.
Consider indolence. What does indolence look like in your life? We are all guilty of it at some level. What does laziness look like in your life? Is it vacancy, is it complacency, is it idleness, or is it sleeping too much? Find any indolence in your life and set about rooting it out and casting it to the wind!
In the next post, we will be looking at Foster’s consideration of the ‘Intervals of Time’s Impact on the Improvement of Time’.