Time is Short

Today, I am painfully aware that time is short.  Retirement age is racing toward me at an alarming rate and yet I still have so much I want to do; things that have significance and meaning to me.  I want to do it all while I still have the physical and mental faculties to do it well.  My stamina is already not what it was twenty years ago.  I don’t think I have another twenty years of stamina, though I hope I do.  To be honest, I am already surprised at the myriad ways my body tells me it is wearing and not as resilient as it once was.  Projecting into the future, I can’t see things improving significantly and I anticipate more wear and tear, if anything, not less.

Meanwhile, I am aware that you can’t push yourself so hard that you die early.  On the radio, this morning, are reports of a well known politician, a contemporary, dead at 55.  That’s very young, really.  I have had a tendency to push myself too hard, to date.  Pacing myself is more important, now.  I know too many brilliant people that didn’t make it to their sixties.  To be honest, I miss them dreadfully.

I read another interesting thing, this morning.  A methodical analysis of start-up company successes and failures discovered that the most significant factor is timing.  Too early or too late spell doom.  Timing is more important than the quality of the idea, the quality of the execution, the business plan or the funding.  It is the dominant factor in success.  Your idea has to hit the sweet spot, when the world is ready to receive it and mad for it.

I’ve always tended to have ideas that are way too early, and then burnt myself out trying to move against the tide, only to become exhausted, depleted and discouraged, causing me to miss the right moment, when it comes.  The problem is that judging the right moment for when the world is ready for any particular idea is exceedingly difficult, especially as the world grows resistant to any new idea, it seems.  Right now, trivialities command the limelight.

I feel something a little like panic, because while I have been trying to move forward with the things I want to accomplish, the universe has had this way of inserting other, urgent, pressing existential problems to solve, while I am trying to solve my own creative challenges.  I have been blown off course and diverted, just making the practicalities of life work.  It has been a very painful distraction, when life is short and time is limited.  I feel resentment that I am required to solve some of them and will have to spend considerable and ongoing time doing that, instead of focusing on my self-defined mission.  I just couldn’t find a way to make it earn enough through my heart’s calling that it would solve the practical problems of living for me, without me needing to do anything else.

So, my reality, like that of many artists, is that I must spend a lot of my time making life survivable, while putting my creative projects to one side.  That just makes me realise how important those projects are to me and how much I want to spend any other time I can eke out at least moving them forward by increments, until they do gather some momentum of their own.  It’s entirely possible, of course, that all of the projects that are important to me will never find an audience willing to sponsor their existence.  While that’s tragic for me, it doesn’t in any way lessen their importance to me.  I’ll have to attempt them, even if nobody else cares, as is currently the demonstrable case.  It’s my own self-imposed burden, this mission of mine.

Meanwhile, I also want to pay as much attention as I can to those I love most, because this year has taught me that they can disappear at any time.  You never want to lose them with things left unsaid and undone together, because you were too busy pursuing your art.  It’s important to live life, as well as having purpose to life.  How do other people juggle all of this?  As best they can, I suspect.  It’s never easy.  Balance is hard to achieve.

Mortality, eh?

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About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: https://michaeltopic.wordpress.com/. There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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11 Responses to Time is Short

  1. Hi Michael – reading your post, what jumped out at me was the apparent separation, in your mind, between your work life and your ‘real’ creative life. It struck me that it’s a modern myth, and not necessarily a very helpful one, that the only real proof of ‘true’ creativity to be able to live a life devoted only to one’s craft. Or that creativity that has no market value has no worth.

    I remember reading – and I wish I’d kept a record of where – of a hospital porter in America who did all his ordinary moving patients around the hospital duties and took it upon himself to find out something about the comatose patients that he was moving into a recovery room. If the relatives weren’t available, he took a guess at the kind of person the patient might be. Maybe human faces, in repose, hold such information. Then he chose the picture to put on their wall, so that the first thing they saw when they woke up would be a thing of beauty. To me, that’s useful creativity and a life to be proud of.

    In my mind, whatever moments of creativity push their way into the front of your mind – on the way to work, at work or at home – add up, over a lifetime, like the drops of water that form stalagmites. If you are creating things, then that’s enough. No matter how slowly they come to life or how diffuse they seem to be. Or if they disappear as soon as they’ve come to life, like a Buddhist sand mandala.

    If human creativity doesn’t serve humans – either you yourself or those around you – either those you work with and/or those you love – then I’m not sure where its value lies.

    I understand your feelings of time running out, but you could also perceive the days you have as extra days. We’re all dying and you’re already on extra time if you measure your life against Keats or Mozart, or many, many others.

    All best wishes
    Elaine

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. The practicalities are that my “real” creativity involves music and painting, whereas my everyday creativity, which I apply to my paid job, whenever and wherever I can, is mostly a technical and people skill set. I am proud of that aspect of my creativity, but it pains me that the music and painting don’t put food on the table. That said, if I never got to exercise my technical creative skills or work with other people collaboratively, I would feel that loss too.

      So, I am highly creative all the time, in all of my waking hours, but I feel a loss when I am letting painting and music atrophy in order to bring home the bacon.

      I also recognise how lucky I am to even be alive. Two of my best friends didn’t make it into their twenties.

      Part of the problem, for me, is that the things that carry the most potent meaning are the things that pay least well. For purely practical reasons, I find myself having to ignore the things that are most important to me, in order to do things that, in the scheme of things, don’t carry as much importance. That’s not to say my paid work has no meaning. That would be a very unfair assessment. It’s a comparative measure.

      All in all, I feel lucky to have whatever opportunities that come my way, but still regret that the things which really speak to my soul, at the very deepest level, won’t sustain my family.

      • Hi Michael – I’m really glad, even though I’ve never met you, that you enjoy the time spent at work and that it brings you satisfaction, as well as cash. I was sad to think of you as a disappointed wage-slave.

        If you won the lottery tomorrow and could devote all your waking hours to painting and music, would you? Would you find inspiration if you had no borders or boundaries to your time? I only ask because I’ve known creative people who begin to drown in a sea of time when they’ve been made redundant (on a decent settlement). It’s not just the shock of redundancy. There’s something useful, I think, about time that’s delimited and precious, rather than an endless and amorphous.

        It sounds to me as if you’ve chosen a balanced life and an honourable one. I’m not sure how many financially successful artists are able to truly sustain a family – not just in a monetary sense, but in an emotional one.

        I’ll shut up now! I’m typing as I think, so I hope this doesn’t sound presumptuous or patronising. No matter how our lives turn out, there’s always that golden ‘other life’ gleaming in glimpses, just out of sight and reach.

        All best wishes
        Elaine

      • I can answer that with actual life experience. I had a settlement in February 2014 and spent it making art, music, writing and creating technology. It was the most purposeful period of my life. I wrote a book, I produced the best part of an EP of music, I painted some of my best paintings and I cut the turf on a web site for independent musicians to manage their entire career from one place. I also started what I think is the most important book of my life.

        It was mostly bliss, until the money began to dwindle. I would recommend it to anybody, but I do recognise that many people, in the same circumstances, flounder.

        Thank you once again for your excellent comments, Elaine. Much appreciated.

      • Aaah. Now I understand your frustration. A taste of honey. Sorry for jumping on a single post and reading everything from that. Delete my comments if you like – they’re not relevant to your real internal struggle and they probably read like the interventions of an aged aunt who’s come to visit without her ear trumpet and starts dishing out opinions based on the fragments of conversation she’s heard. I should have read your post, thought my own misguided thoughts and moved on.
        Best wishes
        Elaine

      • On the contrary. I welcome your comments and they made me think. Thank you for taking the time to set them forth. I really do appreciate the interaction.

  2. Time is definitely short! And you are right about timing as well. It is so important and I do believe there’s a lot of luck involved. Some of us have similar ideas but just not at the right time to those who manage to jump on that magic roller coaster.

  3. Yes! I’m still hoping to catch it!

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