Time and Work: According to Dad, the Builder

Around the State, Arts, Education, Opinion/Editorial, Personal History
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Dad, the Builder

     Sometimes I feel like an escaped convict being chased by time:  ever-long to-do lists and never-long to finish them. Plans for plans of plans to accomplish things which need only be accomplished in order to accomplish other things. And then comes the rising, surging impatience as one menial task seemingly steals time from a larger, more important task. “It’s all work; it all takes time; and it’s all necessary,” my dad would tell me. “You can lug and stack 6 pallets of brick for the bricklayer who stands in wait atop the scaffold, all the while wishing you had his job instead of yours, but you will have forgotten that he is about to move all the same bricks, setting and leveling each one by one as his two hands build a wall.”

     Without time, there may be no depth. All too often, we waste time and effort by spending time and effort trying to save time and effort. Short cuts, loopholes, and corner-cutting may be useful in a pinch, but real progress cannot be achieved unless you are willing to “walk the path” in its entirety. Our sweeping mentality of always wishing to find a tool that will give us more and faster typically results only in superficial levels of quality and knowledge which deliver neither more nor fast. Worse yet, cramming with shortcuts to learn quickly a little about everything ultimately means that you’ll only ever know a little about anything.

     The frustrating truth is that there is no cure for time. Be it spent or wasted, nothing passes more steadily than the tick of the clock. All we have are the choices we make about how to pass with it. The good times move with the speed at which we wish the bad times could, and the bad times linger in ways that only good times should. In the end, our only real solution is mindful, steady work. Couple this with a specific objective, and we may rest assured that the amount of time it takes to complete any task will be exactly equal to the amount of time it should take to complete the task, no more, no less. Only with years of repetition does the length of time needed to complete our work begin to shorten, a frustrating fact of life that is otherwise known as patience.

Matthew Thornton is an Austin-based artist and a history teacher. Originally from Corpus Christi, his wide-sweeping artistic interests range from writing and film-making to photography and painting. His work and studies explore patterns within the endless nuance of life as he remains constantly in search of the so-called, “big picture”.

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