“Time”, says the proverb, “is money”. This means that every moment well spent may put some money into our pockets. If our time is usefully employed, it will either turn out some useful and important piece of work which will fetch its price in the market, or it will add to our experience and increase our capacities so as to enable us to earn money when the proper opportunity comes. There can thus be no doubt that time is convertible into money. Let those who think nothing of wasting time, remember this; let them remember that an hour misspent is equivalent to the loss of a bank-note; and that an hour utilized is tantamount to so much silver or gold; and then they will probably think twice before they give their consent to the loss of any part of their time.
Moreover, our life is nothing more than our time. To kill time is therefore a form of suicide. We are shocked when we think of death, and we spare no pains, no trouble, and no expense to preserve life. But we are too often indifferent to the loss of an hour or of a day, forgetting that our life is the sum total of the days and of the hours we live. A day or an hour wasted is therefore so much life forfeited. Let us bear this in mind, and waste of time will appear to us in the light of a crime as culpable as suicide itself.
There is a third consideration that will also tend to warn us against the loss of time. Our life is a brief span measuring some sixty or seventy years in all, but nearly one half of this has to be spent in sleep; some years have to be spent over our meals; some over dressing and undressing; some in making journeys on land and voyages by sea; some in merry-making, either on our own account or for the sake of others; some in celebrating religious and social festivals; some in watching over the sick-beds of our nearest and dearest relatives. Now if all these years were to be deducted from the term over which our life extends we shall find about fifteen or twenty years at our disposal for active work. Whoever remembers this can never willingly waste a single moment of his life. “It is astonishing”, says Lord Chesterfield, “that anyone can squander away in absolute idleness one single moment of that portion of time which is allotted to us in this world. Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it.”
All time is precious; but the time of our childhood and of our youth is more precious than any other portion of our experience. For those are the periods when alone we can acquire knowledge and develop our faculties and capacities. If we allow these morning hours of life to slip away unutilized, we shall never be able to recoup the loss. As we grow older, our power of acquisition gets blunted, so that the art or science which is not acquired in childhood or youth will never be acquired at all. Just as money laid out at interest doubles and trebles itself in time, so the precious hours of childhood and youth, if properly used, will yield us incalculable advantages. “Every moment you lose”, says Lord Chesterfield, “is so much character and advantage lost; as on the other hand, every moment you now employ usefully is so much time wisely laid out at prodigious interest.”
A proper employment of time is of great benefit to us from a moral point of view. Idleness is justly said to be the rust of mind and an idle brain is said to be Satan's workshop. It is mostly when you do not know what to do with yourself that you do something ill or wrong. The mind of the idler preys upon itself. As Watts has said:
In works of labor or of skillLet me be busy too;For Santa finds some mischief stillFor idle hands to do.