Saving Time – The New York Times

Equipo
By Equipo
12 Min Read

Any advice I’ve ever been given that’s actually resonated has boiled down to a variation on the same basic theme: Life is short. Stop wasting it.

It comes packaged in varying poetic guises, each profound or corny, depending on how receptive or cynical one is feeling. “Don’t borrow trouble” is my favorite, a solid distillation of “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” from the Gospels. The poet Andrew Marvell addressed himself to his mistress with the persuasive “The grave’s a fine and private place, / But none, I think, do there embrace.” A million memes have bloomed from the Mary Oliver line “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / With your one wild and precious life?” The message is consistent and irrefutable: Memento mori. Remember you’re going to die. Or, if you prefer, YOLO.

I find all of these exhortations urgent and moving and also difficult to absorb. So I’m always grateful to hear the message again, to be reminded to be intentional about how I’m spending or wasting time. I had just such a reminder recently listening to a conversation between The Times’s David Marchese and the actress Anne Hathaway. David asks her about turning 40 and entering middle age. She said she was hesitant to mark this time in her life as the middle because she could get hit by a car later today. “We don’t know if this is middle age,” she says. “We don’t know anything.”

I myself am approaching a milestone birthday, one I’m trying not to think of as some kind of deadline or reckoning, and I welcomed Hathaway’s perspective on how we consider time. It’s easy to default into picturing one’s life as a timeline, to chart our progress along that line, certain we know where the beginning, middle and end are. Hathaway recalled a moment of awakening when, lost in stress, she realized: “You are taking your life for granted. You have no idea. Something could fall through the sky and that would be lights out for you.” Here you are, burning daylight and borrowing trouble and going gentle into that good night. Memento mori. Something could, at any moment, fall through the sky. If we really and truly understood that, how would today be different?

There are good books that dig into this: Ernest Becker’s “Denial of Death,” Oliver Burkeman’s “Four Thousand Weeks,” Stephen Levine’s “A Year to Live.” I’ve read them each more than once, periodic efforts to keep the fire under myself ablaze. Sometimes it burns so brightly I find myself hurrying through my life, another way of wasting time. On a recent revisiting of Levine’s book I found myself resentful of the time it was taking to read it: What if I was spending too much time considering how I’m spending my time? At that point, I probably was.

As David says in the interview, we know we can’t take for granted how much time we have left, but “internalizing that so that we can treat each day and moment of our lives like it could be the last, which would be the most powerful change we could make in our lives, is also maybe the hardest thing to actually do.” It’s one thing to intellectually understand the finitude of our lives and another to actually live it out. Whatever it takes to truly get it is worthwhile, whether it’s reading and rereading the same books, or talking it out with friends; whether it’s a meditation practice or a sticky note on your monitor or just paying close and compassionate attention to how you’re spending your time.

It can be tempting to dismiss easily commodified inspiration. I’m skeptical of “seize the day”-style wisdom that I can picture painted in splashy cursive on a piece of shiplap and sold in a home décor store. But maybe that’s the point: Reminders of our mortality have broad appeal because their implications are relevant for literally everyone. We don’t need to wait until we see something falling through the sky, headed our way, to live as if something might. As Levine writes in “A Year to Live,” “Once you see what the heart really needs, it doesn’t matter if you’re going to live or die, the work is always the same.”

For more

  • David Marchese’s talk with Anne Hathaway is part of a new Times series called “The Interview,” which will come out each week as both a podcast and an article. You can get the podcast here, or read the interview here.

  • “Contemplating death is like a cold plunge for the soul, a prick to the amygdala. You emerge renewed, your vision clarified.” On the 50th anniversary of “Denial of Death.”

  • Meet the nun who wants you to remember you will die.

  • Pretending death can be indefinitely evaded with hot yoga or a gluten-free diet or antioxidants or just by refusing to look is craven denial.” From 2013, Tim Kreider on watching a parent get old.

THE WEEK IN CULTURE

Music

  • Donald Trump’s lawyer tried to find inconsistencies in testimony given by David Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, in Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial. Pecker responded defiantly, saying he had been “truthful to the best of my recollection.”

  • The Biden administration delayed a decision on whether to ban menthol cigarettes. Tobacco companies and some Black supporters of President Biden oppose a ban.

  • Biden said in an interview with Howard Stern that he would be “happy” to debate Trump and criticized the Supreme Court as “maybe the most conservative in modern history.”

  • The Times’s Charles Homans attended seven Trump rallies and was stunned by how different the former president sounded compared to his 2016 campaign.

Other Big Stories

  • The U.S. said it would not suspend aid to Israeli military units accused of human rights abuses in the West Bank, so long as Israel holds them accountable.

  • Columbia University barred from its campus a student leader of the pro-Palestinian protests who said on video that “Zionists don’t deserve to live.” The student apologized.

  • The Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation remained stubbornly elevated last month. That could prompt Fed officials to keep interest rates high for longer.

  • King Charles III will return to public duties next week, an encouraging sign of recovery about three months after he disclosed that he had cancer.

  • Congestion pricing, which charges drivers more to enter certain parts of New York City in an effort to ease traffic, will take effect June 30. It’s the first such program in the country.

CULTURE CALENDAR

📺 Hacks (Thursday): Can’t you take a joke? This HBO comedy, starring Jean Smart in her career best as a legacy comic and Hannah Einbinder as a gawky millennial upstart, returns for a third season. The show has laughs to burn, many of them from its terrific supporting cast, which includes Megan Stalter and Poppy Liu. But “Hacks” is at its best totaling the high cost that celebrity and comedy exact.

🎥 The Fall Guy (Friday): Ryan Gosling, America’s boyfriend, stars opposite Emily Blunt in this reboot of the 1980s TV series. Stunt casting? Exactly. In this giddy ode to movies and the people who make them, Gosling plays Colt Seavers, an injured stuntman hired for a movie directed by Jody (Blunt), his snappish ex. David Leitch, a veteran stuntman, directs.

RECIPE OF THE WEEK

Matzo Pizza

Gluten-free pizza options may abound now, but nothing beats the crackle of a matzo crust, especially during Passover. In her matzo pizza, Melissa Clark brilliantly starts by toasting olive oil-slicked matzo on its own so it stays crisp. (Using a thicker pizza sauce, like this one, also helps.) It’s great on its own or with more toppings.

REAL ESTATE

The hunt: A mother and daughter wanted a home outside Atlanta with enough room for some privacy. Which one did they choose? Play our game.

What you get for $700,000: A 1926 brick house in Lexington, Ky.; a two-bedroom condo in Lyme, N.H.; or a Tudor Revival home in Minneapolis.

Normcore: Members of The Times’s Styles desk have feelings about the fashion in the tennis-slash-love triangle movie “Challengers.”

Easy listening: Podcasts like “The Happiness Lab,” hosted by the academic Dr. Laurie Santos, can help soothe the anxious mind.

London: In a few years, you could be eating dinner, going to fashion shows and walking through gardens in tunnels below the city.

ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER

The easiest Mother’s Day gift of them all

As a parent of young children, all I want for Mother’s Day is a couple hours without them. Conversely, my older sister, a parent of teenagers, is thirsty for any scraps of time with her kiddos, phones down. Where we’re aligned: Save your flowers and skip the gift certificate. If you’re in a position to give time on May 12, apart or together, do that! But as Wirecutter’s gift editor, I’ve got a front-row seat to dozens of inexpensive gifts I’d graciously receive. Every pick combines delight, beauty and utility, and ideally serves as a joyful reminder of your appreciation. (All that for under $50!) Our advice is to do both: Save your money, give your time. That’s what moms really want. — Hannah Morrill

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, N.H.L. playoffs: One of hockey’s oldest rivalries gets another installment. How old? These two first played one another a century ago, in 1924. Toronto hasn’t beaten Boston in a playoff series since 1959, and it’s currently down two games to one. But don’t count the Leafs out: They still have the best player on the ice in Auston Matthews, the N.H.L.’s leader in goals this season, who is among the favorites to win M.V.P. 8 p.m. Eastern on TBS

NOW TIME TO PLAY

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