Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Time out

Parts of this article will appear in 'Why Lawyers Should Surf'' (co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest) which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Extracts from the book can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

Time. Hours, minutes, second. The notes by which we measure out our lives. Help us take an historical perspective. Plan for the future. Yet there are some moments in our lives when we feel outside of time. Rising above it. Stepping outside of its heavy march. Moments which engrave themselves on our souls. Which we carry with us when we re-join that march. Some surfers might say that this is how it feels when they are on a wave. Others might feel this in communion with God or in the purest moments of love. Whenever it is, it is the moments when we forget about the demands of time that are often the most significant. Auden in The Waters:

“With time in tempest everywhere…
The waters long to hear our questions put
Which would release their longed-for answer, but.”

Perhaps it’s how we were meant to be. Outside of time. Blake, “If the doors of perception were to be cleansed, everything would appear as it is, infinite.” Yet we all measure out our lives. T.S.Eliot described doing so in coffee spoons. Most of us do it through the seasons, the years and ultimately the generations. It helps to give meaning, perspective. Yet if we pay too much attention to time’s passing, perhaps we lose sight of the bigger picture.

If this were ever true, it is so for lawyers as they take the measuring of time to its extreme. The make it into a commodity. Something to be bought and sold as the amount of billable hours worked is translated into someone’s worth to a firm. This in itself may be no bad thing as it makes us all aware of the need to value the passing of time. Economists would describe time as a scarce resource which comes with an opportunity cost, in other words that you could have been doing something else instead. The risk for lawyers is that they always see this opportunity cost as a billable hour. If we're not careful this can skew our view of time itself, particularly when you can’t put a price on most of our activities and some may even be described, as the Barclaycard ad goes, as priceless. So then. What price the soul?

1 comment:

Dr Michelle Tempest said...

We seem to be forever told that bank cards are our flexiable friends - yet the true essence of how to spent time can not be placed on a credit card. As you put, it is about the soul, and that can never be quantified.