The Economics of Time

Freedom to Read Week, February 22-28, 2015

Entry #11: New Brunswick author Chuck Bowie on the importance of making time for what you love.

Infants and toddlers have all the time in the world to read. Sadly, they cannot reap the rewards of that gift, since they haven’t acquired the skill set. Folks with mental challenges—perhaps the hardest of the illnesses for relatives and friends to witness—share this challenge, in that, for their reasons and burdens, they cannot gain access to the gift of reading.

In between is the sweet spot where most of us reside. I haven’t forgotten the illiterate, the unfortunates who have been deliberately deprived of books, magazines, articles and other forms of word-to-paper or to screen. But there remain many of us who have been educated and know how to read.

So, those of us, a great roiling mass of us, have what seems to be illimitable items from which to gain access and learn (or be entertained). Do we, then, actually do that? Are our days spent sucking up knowledge, facts, wisdom, information, bits and bytes? Not me. Most days, I carry a wistful thought that life would be better if I didn’t have to sleep, exercise, eat, converse or otherwise participate in life events.

I want to read!

I read about a group of NHL hockey players who went to Moscow on a Christmas tournament. These were rich young men essentially bred to play hockey. They would grow up to become businessmen, winery owners and restauranteurs, but at that point in time, they were big kids in a culturally rich, exotic city. When asked if they’d like to take a tour of the city, finishing up at the Bolshoi, they demurred. They had television to watch.

Parents of toddlers. Minimum wage earners with two and three part-time jobs, health care-givers. There are people in your social circle who have excellent reasons why they choose not to read. Many of us don’t, and in many cases, it comes down to choice.

I set aside last evening to read, but two of the shows I follow were on, and then Chicago was playing a late game. Before I knew it, I had to go to bed. Last weekend, I had time set aside to read, but Kirk called me up for a game of indoor tennis. Since I hadn’t exercised all week, I thought I should invest in my health. The books would be there later.

Later. Isn’t that when most of our reading takes place? In pioneer days, the chores had to be completed by dark, technology being what it was. So reading by lantern was the best way to spend the time between chores and bed. That and conversation. Nowadays all we need, in order to read, is the most simple of all tools: a schedule. We exercise our bodies, and leave our brains to calcify. Rust never sleeps, and we can guess if we never read, soon it will become an effort to even try reading. That seems to whisper ‘Karma’ to me.

If you want to read, read. If you want to find the time, schedule it. If your time is committed, multi-task. It turns out you aren’t actually falling asleep as you put on your PJs. You have a few minutes to wind down. Believe it or not, reading is possible as you eat your lunch, or while enjoying a cup of tea. Or in lieu of bad television (because let’s face it; TV ain’t all rocket science and brilliant dialogue).

Count your weeks into hours. Set aside a few of them in which to read. In most cases, it comes down to making a decision. Lots of folks cannot read, or have not been given the gift of access to the written word. One of the Laws of Economics states that for every opportunity, there is an opportunity cost. If all of our spare time is invested in television, or exercise, or coffee shops, the cost will surely be in impoverishing our mind. And nobody wants that.

Chuck Bowie writes suspense-thrillers about a contract thief for hire. In Three Wrongs, his protagonist steals a conversation. You could read about it just before you fall asleep, or while eating lunch.