On Living

One of the Biggest Problems of the Modern World: Not Keeping Up With Life

Perhaps one of the most important problems of the modern world is not being able to keep up with the pace of life. We all complain about not having time for something. This river of life flows so endlessly that we complain about not being able to create even a time to breathe. We are drowning more and more every day. Sometimes we take action and start rowing in order to play this river game according to the rules. However, by trying to go in the opposite direction to reduce the flow, the shovels we have wasted give us a hollow today was not an empty day” feeling at the end of the day. It is nothing more than this feeling. We try to deceive our minds by tiring our bodies underwater. But in fact, perhaps the most effective way to survive in this river is to realize that we cannot stop the flow instead we must become aware of the fact that we cannot stop the river from flowing. It is impossible to manage time. Awareness of the buoyancy force of water keeps us afloat even in the deepest waters and allows us to breathe. Yes, maybe it’s all about pressing the pause button to breathe for a while, instead of trying to go in the opposite direction of the flow of life.

All Men by Nature Desire to Know

Man is full of fear of missing something. Aristotle says in the opening of his famous book, Metaphysics, “All men by nature desire to know ” The feeling of incompleteness is terrifying. That’s why we live and die in a constant struggle to catch up. Many of us get lost trying to break through the fog of omniscience. While we want to do everything, we realize that we cannot do anything. So the person with limited breath must strive to row in the right place and at the right time to adapt to the flow. Determining our priorities in our lives is the first and most important step for making room for breathing.


The Feeling of Missing Something

Interestingly, both decreasing and increasing the use of social media is mostly due to the desire not to miss anything. As the concepts that are supposed to be opposite, such as sleepy and sleepless, have the same meaning. From the most to the least used, we all know the fact that social media takes a lot of time. I’m sure many of us do a social media detox” when we think we’re getting too caught up in it and we try to stop using it for a while. Although the initial feeling of “I actually have loads of time” may be sweet, the person who wants to know naturally encounters a new anxiety. This time, there is a feeling of missing something because one cannot follow the social media agenda. Especially, in a country like Turkey, where a surprisingly new event takes place every minute, getting away from the agenda for even a few hours brings the new question of “I wonder if I missed something?” to mind. It gives us the feeling. Therefore, time management becomes inextricable.

A Musical Instrument With An Increasing Number Of Strings Day By Day

As we get older, as if our remaining time is not enough, there are many responsibilities that need to be managed. Prof. Dr. Osman Yavuz Ataman, who passed away last year, compared our lives to a stringed musical instrument at a conference. Our musical instrument, which consisted of only one or two strings when we were young, would have even more strings as we got older.” With our spouse, children, work, friends, or hobbies, we unconsciously add many wires to our lives. The more strings a musical instrument has, the more likely it is to produce different sounds. Just like the billions of different music in existence consists of only a few notes, or the entire language we speak consists of combinations of just 29 letters coming together. Each wire adds something new to us, and these additions open up many new doors.

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However, it is not easy to use all the strings in a musical instrument at the right time and in the right way. In order to make a good sound from a string, it is necessary to tune it. Often, however, changes occur in one string as the other strings are tuned. The wires in our lives are just like that. It consists of the ability to strive to produce a beautiful sound and set our priorities right while not harming other strings. Tightening a wire too hard will cause it to break, and leaving it loose will prevent it from making a sound. That’s why tuning the strings of our life guitar is so important to bring pleasant sounds to our surroundings.

Our Common Enemy: Time

Priorities… That’s probably the keyword for time management. In fact, time management is a somewhat daring concept. We act as if time belongs to us and we own this flow. But as we all know, we cannot control this river. Time is the common enemy of everyone and cannot be defeated. In fact, in Greek Mythology, there is a malicious titan named Chronos who can create time and change its course. He is the father of the more popular gods such as Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. The word chronology comes from Chronos. It is called Saturn in Roman Mythology. And yes, Saturn, the sixth closest planet to the Sun, and Saturday, the English name for the sixth day of the week, come from this Titan. The bottom line is that time is beyond our control and perception. In many cultures, it is considered bad and seen as an enemy.

Chronos – Clipping Cupid’s Wings by Pierre Mignard (1610-1695)
Image Source: Wikipedia

The Order of the Stones to be Placed in the Jar of Life

There is a beautiful story about this daring step. A professor comes to class with a jar. He places several large stones in the jar. Now, when there is no room to add any more large stones, he returns to the class and asks. “Is this jar full?” The classmates answer this question in unison and say “Yes”. This time, the professor takes a few pebbles and starts pouring them into the jar filled with large stones. Next, he shakes the jar and pebbles fill the spaces between the larger stones. He returns to the class again and asks the same question. The classmates say more confidently this time that the jar is full. This time the professor starts pouring sand on the full jar. Sand grains fill in between large and small stones, providing a whole image. This time, hearing the same answer from his students, the professor takes two cups of coffee and pours it over the full jar. Then he begins to explain:

This jar is your life. The big stones I put at the beginning are the important things in your life. Really critical things like your family, your health, and your friends. Even if you lose everything else in your jar of life, these are enough to make this jar seem full and it will fill your life. Pebbles represent other things that are slightly less important. Things like your job, your house, or your car. Sand is even smaller stuff. Like the outfit, you’re going to wear.

Tasarimlar 3

Imagine filling the jar with sand first. There will be no room for pebbles and large stones. The same thing applies to our lives. When you spend your time and energy on the little things, there will be no time left for the things that really matter. That’s why we should focus our attention on our happiness and the things that are truly valuable to us. Like our family and our health. When we learn to align our priorities correctly, we can find enough time for everything.”

Meanwhile, a student curiously asks: “Sir, but what were the last two cups of coffee you poured for?”

The teacher answers with a smile: “I was waiting for this question. No matter how full your life is, even if it seems like there is no room left in your jar, there is always enough room for a cup of coffee with your friends and loved ones. Those two cups I added later are pleasant coffees to drink with your friends.”

Life can be a flowing river, or a guitar with an increasing number of strings with each passing year, or a jar of stones, large and small. It all comes down to basically the same thing. Even though our time seems so limited that we can’t even find time to breathe, the way to have a cup of coffee with our friends in the company of our musical instruments that make beautiful melodies is to set our priorities correctly. If we complain that our time is not enough for anything, it would be useful to press the “stop” button of our lives for a few minutes, breathe and reconsider the position of the stones in the jar.

References and Further Readings

In the “About Living” category of the site, the author is not obliged to cite any source, as he includes his own thoughts. However, if the subject has piqued your interest, you can read further from the articles below.

Billingsley, W. (2019, August 14). Time clipping Cupid’s Wings [Pierre Mignard]. Sartle. https://www.sartle.com/artwork/time-clipping-cupids-wings-pierre-mignard.

Wikimedia Foundation. (2021, July 24). Chronos _ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronos. 

Images not cited are used through Canva Pro with a royalty payment.

The proofreading has been done by Asu Pelin Akköse and Mete Esencan.

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Mete Esencan

Hello everyone! I'm Mete Esencan. I am a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry at METU. I was planning to establish a platform by combining the research knowledge I gained during my basic science education and the management experience I gained in the METU Chemistry Society, which I was in charge of for three years. For this purpose, in February of 2021, I took the first step and established the OkButWhy, a platform where we can write articles as if to chat about science, art and philosophy. I wish everyone a pleasant reading!
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