If someone were to ask me, “What is the most prominent common denominator of humanity?” The answer would be simple. Time. Absolutely speaking, each member of humanity has the same number of days, hours and minutes. There will be variations on how many hours each person is awake contingent on their habits, lifestyles and physical tendencies, but overall, the total amount of time given to each person is the same.
There has been much talk of Sonia Sotomayor, the latest US Supreme Court justice candidate. The media has epitomized her life as the realization of the American Dream as she climbed the ladder of society from a single parent family. But David Brooks illuminates that there is another side to her story, a story that unfolds with the same number of days and hours as any other person. In his column titled, “The Way We Live Now“, he tells of how Sotomayor, even as such an achieved person, has broken relationships and empty aspects of life, a victim of the time constraints that all of us have as beings of time and space. But his column seemed to be commenting on our culture that idolizes the progressively increasing industriousness and the climate of life where everything moves faster and faster as we get busier and busier:
This isn’t the old story of a career woman trying to balance work and family. This is the story of pressures that affect men as well as women (men are just more likely to make fools of themselves in response, as the news of the last few years indicates). It’s the story of people in a meritocracy that gets more purified and competitive by the year, with the time demands growing more and more insistent.
These profiles give an authentic glimpse of a style of life that hasn’t yet been captured by a novel or a movie — the subtle blend of high-achiever successes, trade-offs and deep commitments to others. In the profiles, you see the intoxicating lure of work, which provides an organizing purpose and identity. You see the web of mentor-mentee relationships — the courtship between the young and the middle-aged, and then the tensions as the mentees break off on their own. You see the strains of a multicultural establishment, in which people try to preserve their ethnic heritage as they ascend into the ranks of the elite. You see the way people not only choose a profession, it chooses them. It changes them in a way they probably didn’t anticipate at first.
Time really is money. At least, currency. Currency of value. Understanding where and how we spend our time is another way of discerning what we value, as individuals and as a culture. And when our culture does not value people, children, jobs, recreation, the appropriate way and appropriate amount, then things go awry. As Tim Keller commented once that our big city cultures (especially New York) are not much different from the cultures of old where they used to sacrifice children. He says that we do the same, through overvaluing our careers and undervaluing our families. By neglecting our children, we kill our children, we are sacrificing our children to the god of work. I personally do not know how to slow down this fast culture of ours, but I would like to be enlightened. As Brooks’ title states, this is the world we live in now, will it continue or change? For better or worse? Only our common denominator will tell.