pjn (home page: contents and index)






Time spent: Spending Time…                               




Time spent is a piece of life spent. A measurable proportion of our life spent; exchanged but no longer exchangeable, no longer re-imbursible, no longer returnable – eternally not returnable… 


Like a toy once bought, that can not be resold. But unlike the toy which can be sold second hand or even given away, there is no second chance for a return on spent life. Not even as a free gift, freely given, freely given away. Unlike the congealed time of our labour, our efforts, even of our reflection, a time deferred, deflected into a commodity, which can always be given away, re-exchanged, on whatever basis. Our time can not be so exchanged – this transaction happens but once. Once gone, irretrievable. Like a gift destroyed to underscore our place in the world; commodities consumed; gestures made. All made from our time, all gone, like the time it took to make or earn the means of their purchase. The power and brute irretrievability of our time. It is amazing we give it up so lightly.


As our life is limited, mortal, so are its subdivisions, the time(s) we spend doing things, the time we spend, all fixed proportions of this our limited life span (the traditional four score years and ten) – longer of some, shorter for others. And, of course, we never know when our allowance is spent.


A piece of life, our past, that can not be regained. A life ‘spent’. Once exchanged it is lost forever, no ‘undo’ button, no work of repair, no recourse to a second chance. No return.


Whence the importance of the exchanges we make on identity, our ‘identity exchanges’, that which we spend upon our selves (literally our ‘selves’, our self image, our claim on recognition, our assertion even as a denial of our life itself, our self sacrifice). In some measure all such expenditure is an exchange, built on our lives, the exchange of our lives, a temporally measurable piece of existence set aside for our self-image, our identity - set aside forever. From the sacrifice of our selves to the exchange of a piece our life as a lot of time traded for our appearance, for our self-esteem, an exchange made to guarantee our recognition; all are non-returnable, once negotiated, no longer negotiable. Like a pact with the devil, a pact with death. Whether the lot given ends with our death or not; a portion is spent. Only the future remains. The future for which we have set aside, spent, invested, burnt… ‘burnt offerings’; a portion of our allotted time. Our allotted temporality. Finite. And counting. Moving forwards. Unstoppable. The clock of temporality can not be switched off.  The eternal present that constitutes our consciousness sits on a wave headed for a fixed shore; whence the illusion terminates. The presence of this fact alone is eternal.


Indirect time is still time, is still a given proportion of our finite temporality. Money spent is still time spent, the time spent in earning it, in acquiring it. Whether we do, or buy, it is finally time that is being spent, our time. Whether we put aside an evening, an hour, or a proportion of our bank account, a piece of our earnings, it is time that we finally exchange. It is all that we have, it is all that we have to give. And when it is gone, it is gone.


What a shame to waste it. And yet we do not waste it as often as might appear… For it is the measure of what we truly regard as important. As in the ultimate sacrifice when it is all of ones time that is given at once.


Time well spent was once thought to be that which yielded a concrete return; bank savings, property investment, money (deferred time, saved time) spent on a return, on profit, a profit that would yield things, possessions – matters (matter) further exchangeable for other matter. From the point of view of this kind of rational expenditure, the expense of identity is indeed an expense of shame. A waste of time.


Yet lying beyond price, it enacts the apportionment of value. Gives colour to the monochrome wasteland of logic, heat and substance to the coldness of the rational grid. It is the expenditure of being human (not necessarily a good human, nor a bad human neither, just human). An expenditure guaranteed by its own fixed limit. It is the finitude of our allotted time that gives its giving its value; which gives value. The lack of a return in a strictly material, or ‘rational’, sense is precisely the sign that the exchange is beyond such considerations, is beyond price. ‘Priceless.’ Its value is asserted according to the time given, a time with no return, with no measure apart from itself.  


The return lies on the other side of the river that divides matter and ideas (that is supposed to divide matter and ideas). It asserts identity (and through our reliance on recognition, community). And if we examine every expenditure a given human makes – for all except perhaps the most desperate- the choices made indicate that some measure of identity, some consideration of the kind of human being one is (or would like to be) makes up part of the calculation. Ineluctable.


The bridge over the river that divides matter and ideas (and all the many binary edifices based upon them) is identity exchange. Guaranteed by a finitude that sets the rate on value. A rate set against eternity.






Copyright 2006, Peter Nesteruk