The US dollar, the Euro, the Yen, the Yuan, and the Pound Sterling are all losing their preeminent status as time itself establishes itself increasingly more as the common currency of our age. Many, however, have presaged this development with their pithy phrasings beginning with the ancient Greeks Antiphon and Theophrastus who declared that “the most costly outlay is time” and that “time is very expensive” respectively. Eventually the “über-utilitarian” Benjamin Franklin picked up on this sentiment and coined the by now common adage “time is money” in his 1748 essay “Advice to a Young Tradesman.”
In an age and a culture where anything and everything—information, music, food, and stimulation—is immediately available and accessible and at your fingertips, the urge to maximize one’s time is stronger than ever before being that an infinite number of alternatives exist at any given moment. But how to be efficient with one’s time when it can take up to thirty minutes in the cereal aisle before a satisfactorily researched decision that balances cost-effectiveness, health benefits, taste, and packaging, can be reached? This realization came to me as a fifteen year old in the form of culture shock when I moved back to the US after spending most of my childhood growing up in various parts of Bavaria. There I had never had the opportunity to step foot inside a decision overload inducing grocery warehouse where food products rose above me from the concrete floor to the ceiling like a prepackaged Tower of Babel but had to settle on familiar and less exhilarating food options. I remember vividly being physically incapable of moving a muscle as I stood in the Soda aisle for five minutes while suffering a purely physiological overwhelming by the cornucopia of colas, lemon sodas, root beers, ginger ales, orange sodas, grape sodas, and all their various colors. Now I can search for Soda on Amazon Fresh and come up with two hundred and forty-seven beverages to choose from.
I believe that confronting the realities of the internet age and the daily choices that living in it entails, compels us to rethink the T=M equation. What if we understood time as time and money as money and could differentiate between the two? What if we thought of the time that we “spend” choosing what we would like to eat that day, or what song we would like to hear not as lost or won capital, but as doing the things that we enjoy doing? It can be quite nice to take the time to make the choices that feel “just right” when deciding which book we would like to read next or which wine would go best with our meal—even if we have to wade through a million other books or wine options before choosing just the right one.