Four Hours to Live

We spend approximately 9 hours a day at our place of work. Add to that number the hour or so of preparation, as well as an hour of commuting, and one can easily project half a day spent for the involvement of labor.

Now that we are up to approximately 11 – 12 hours dedicated to working, we can hope that most are receiving a proper 8 hours of sleep, though usually it is much less. That leaves the average working person with roughly 4 hours in which to accomplish everything else.

4 hours. That’s all one gets to live out their dreams, pursue hobbies, visit with family, cook meals, pay bills, run errands, etc. No wonder our society is always rushing about much less lacking on sleep.

If you think these figures are just for working class adults, think again. The average school day is 7 hours with an hour’s worth of homework that usually spans far longer. Then there are the after school programs such as sports practices, dance lessons, scout meetings and so on. And like the adults, children usually have about an hour of preparation in the morning and an hour commute. Our children are faring no better than their adult counterparts in the lacking of time for simply living.

I have witnessed several co-workers retire over the past few years, when they come back into the store they look ten years younger. There’s an actual glow about them, a gladness in their countenance. They even smile! Sadly, we must wait to break free from the machine until we are almost too old to enjoy things. Failing health, fixed income, and higher prices prevent many retirees from pursuing their bucket-list that has been on hold for far too long.

Why should only the wealthy get to experience the wonders the world has to offer? Why should only the children of the rich get to behold the pyramids of Egypt or the ruins in Greece?

This world was given to us all, not just the elite few.

Yes, many have worked hard so that their families might experience luxury, but can you say the person who gathers your trash each week does not work just as hard as the home owner who accumulated the trash? Is the store owner a better worker than his cashiers?

My store manager has a philosophy, “work smarter, not harder.” It is meant to encourage us to avoid unnecessary work, but in truth, this is the philosophy of our culture. We push higher education and think that because a 24-year-old has a piece of paper he deserves all the riches, where as the 47-year-old who came up through the ranks should still scrape buy on pauper’s wages. I guess, though, that 24-year-old was just working smarter, but what has it really gained him?

Life is short, and the things that are truly worth while are the things that we give so little time to.  Rush here.  Rush there. Watch the clock.  Even vacations have become a pressure cooker to squeeze in as many things possible in a week. And how is the math on that? A person who works five days a week will spend 251 days working versus 114 days off (that’s with 10 days vacation), not exactly an even split of the year, especially when you’re trying to accomplish so much.

So what is it that has us short-changing loved ones and ourselves in order to make the big man wealthy? What is it that we are trying to prove? Better yet, to whom are we trying to prove it?

Indeed, there are bills to pay, food to buy, and other necessities, but in looking over the past century it seems that the more we work the more we want, thus the more debt incurred. Are we really improving the quality of life through this materialistic mentality?  We compete against our neighbors in some imagined idea of success and yet all are falling short of the finish line out of sheer exhaustion.

I have been to many funerals in my life time and no one has ever talked about the deceased person’s work. There might be people present from their place of employment, but it was not a defining aspect of the person. Usually, there is talk of who the deceased was in the community, how they were with their family and friends, and their character. They talk of the person, not of their job.  And what of all that wealth and material accrued?  Well, to be blunt, they’re dead and all those things remained in the land of the living.

Human beings were never designed to become their work.

I spend nine hours locked in a building without so much as breathing a scent of fresh air and I am not alone in this situation. Millions of workers are chained to desks, windowless environments, and artificial lighting all for the sake of earing a piece of paper. A piece of paper that when it’s all said and done is worth NOTHING.

I am not so naive to think that we can go back to such simplistic ways, we are far too lost for that. However, what would be rewarding is to human beings ranking higher than money. We have lost sight of humanity for the sake of something shiny.  Our basic needs – food, shelter, clothing – can be met without having to work our lives away.  It is society that makes the demands for various insurances, big homes, fancy cars, and latest electronics.

However, when there is a tragedy, such as a school shooting, people are quick to place blame – it’s the games, the parents, education system, drugs – but in truth it is society that is at fault. We have failed our children because we think that buying them stuff is more important than giving them quality time with family and friends.  We place babies in front of tablets for entertainment and forgo reading to them.   We have strangers raising our kids because we can’t be home to take care of them due to work.

When I was a kid, shops didn’t open on Sundays. Amazingly, we survived without a 24/7 store just fine. We spent the day with family, visiting grandparents and cousins while creating memories through conversation and backyard football. Not once did we feel as though we were missing out on something because we couldn’t go to a  that dastorey. Sadly, today we live in a society where people complain because businesses close on Christmas day, their desire for material objects overrides their respect for human beings.

How many more children need to die in order for us to wake up and see that there needs to be a change made?

We were never meant to be robots.  To work endlessly and yet reap so little.

We need more than 4 hours to live.



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