my eraser's gone before my graphite

meditation Mar 18, 2022

This has been my plague since before I started kindergarten: I use my pencils to write and draw, but I erase as much, if not more, than I write. All my pencils still have miles of writing left in them, but they've lost the ability undo their marks. At this point, I might as well use a pen because every mark I make is permanent.

I'm sure y'all already see where this is going. When my actions have irreversible consequences, I proceed more carefully. I slow down and think about what I'm doing. With a pencil, that's easy to do: I just write slower. Or write less. In life, though, we all proceed into the future at a rate of 24 hours per day. The only eraser is the limit of our memories over which we have almost no control.

Using the pencil analogy, it's like we're drawing a continuous line from birth til death. We can take hold and try to steer, but really, we don't even know what we're trying to draw and we forget where we came from quicker than we make new memories. We have no idea how our actions today will affect our lives tomorrow. There's no way for us to predict how events yesterday are affecting us today.

Since that's true, it's absurd for me to claim I've "wasted time" as if I were able to see more clearly into the future than the average psychic. I don't know what's ahead any more than I know the exact number of steps I'll take this afternoon. The value of my time isn't based on some poorly applied sunk-cost analysis or productivity. If I spend an hour napping, that doesn't make that specific hour worth more than the thirty minutes I spent talking to my friend.

Back in west Texas, it was easy to drive four or five hours to spend an evening with my relatives, then make the same commute back later that night. Which time was better spent? The eight hours getting there, or the five hours with loved ones? Crazily enough, we spend most of our life getting there. Most things we do in a day are to get us from one point in time to another. If I chose not to "waste" time driving, I would never spend "quality" time with my relatives in the next town over.

Here's another analogy: I love to eat peanut butter. Is the time the peanuts take to grow "wasted"? They're literally just sitting there in the dirt doing nothing. But we don't go out and uproot the whole field! No. And after I eat the peanut butter, what's left? Just a memory of a fleeting taste. Does that mean eating the peanut butter was a waste of time? No. I still eat peanut butter.

The same goes for life. The time I spend growing isn't a waste any more than the time I spend working or the time I spend reminiscing on my front porch (which in my apartment means sitting and looking out the window). I'm always moving. I'm always growing. Everything has value whether I see it or not. You're not a waste and neither is your time.


I took a break from organ building posts to make this one. I must admit, it's not my most powerful blog article, but it's what I needed to read today.

There's no point in fretting over a few seconds, minutes, hours, days, or weeks that seemingly disappear with nothing to show for them. Go read Job 38.

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