Interlude: a mild theory on time

When hearing new ideas, I sometimes find the intellectual process of getting there almost as interesting as the idea itself.  If you’re not amused by such post-modern, self-aware musings, please skip the following interlude. As an alternative, might I suggest a musical intermission by a great group, Little People, to accompany your daydream and scroll down this page? I’m trying out a choose-your-own-adventure methodology for this post, inspired by an IDEO concept on empowering readers with modern technology. As such, if you’re skipping, look for the bright text that says READ ME. But before then, take this poll:

{interlude begins} Amidst a relatively productive, post-supercrazyday evening earlier this week, I had a realization that many of my over-achieving friends and family have echoed in the past –“The busier you are, the more you get done.” Productive day at work, attended a meeting for this fantastic NYC organization I recently joined called Urban Word (more info to follow),  amazing home-made dinner of pasta-butter-cheese, read a good chunk of this book I am loving, started a blog post I’ll probably never post, spoke to the fam for a bit on the phone, wrote another page in the novel I’ll never publish, caught up on the lives of others via Facebook, realized it was way to late to be up, and crashed. READ ME. Actually, maybe, don’t yet.

Lying in bed, semi-smug with my overachieving sense of intangible accomplishment, I reviewed the day in bursts of film reel. It was a balance of give and take, watch and do, teach and learn. And then it hit me, the punch line of this now blog-post, in a two-by-two matrix.

{interlude ends} READ ME.

So here is the working theory. Human activity can be divided into two types of actions: consumption and creation. And those actions can be characterized as either active or passive.

As a basic example, watching TV on a Sunday afternoon while eating a bag of popcorn would fall under the passive consumption category. Active creation, by contrast could be anything from an engaging task at work to having a deep conversation with someone that helps cement the bonds of your relationship. Active consumption might be heartily thinking about the implications of this blog post as you read it, which could turn into active creation if you choose to share it with others. And finally passive creation might take on the form of an unexpected pregnancy (inappropriate?) or all the other things in life we do without thinking.

By illustration:

At the end of the day, this is just be an exercise in categorizing time, another (very American) attempt to account for human activity and inactivity. What continues to intrigue me with this construct, however whimsy or flimsy it is, is the extension to classic economic constructs, such as GDP. Output=input. Not everything can be measured or accounted for, and surely it’s not a zero-sum game on an individual basis, but at the end of the day, we get what we give — collectively that is.


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