Opinion: Wasting time in the eye of the waster

We were heading down the hill from the ridge that leads north out of Nashville when we spotted a deer crossing the road. It was evening but Becky and I have learned to keep an eye out for such encounters. The small, scrawny creature seemed to be moving slower than normal. It made it to the other side and disappeared into the dark trees. We drove on speculating it was hungry or ill. Haven’t we read about something called “chronic wasting disease?”

We checked out our theory when we got home. According to the DNR website, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) which is similar to mad cow disease, has been detected in free-ranging whitetail deer in several surrounding states. To date, it has not been detected in Indiana. Let’s hope it won’t get here. I would feel bad for my brother who loves to hunt. He always eats what he shoots. If this disease does make an appearance in our state, the DNR would advise hunters who plan to eat the meat to have it tested.

Wasting disease. My mind played with the term and it soon leapt to other kinds of wasting—the many ways we humans have come up with to waste what we have been given. We waste time, waste our talents, waste resources, waste the care and concern we could be sharing with others while focusing on ourselves. I remind myself that self-care is not a waste, but such focus can easily slip into self-indulgence. A waste, it seems to me.

But I suppose waste can also be in the eye of the waster.

I see kids—mostly young but not always—and judge they are wasting their time on video games. Then I remember how I spend my mornings puzzling over crossword puzzles. What’s the difference? Maybe it’s the purpose of the game. I justify it by telling myself I am using puzzles like I use coffee, as a means to wake up and get started with my day. Also, I argue, such mental puzzles are suppose to be healthy for the brain. I am not sure what gamer’s motives are. Possibly they would say it is an exercise in the development of hand-eye coordination. Maybe they would simply answer, “It’s fun. Can’t that be enough?” This argument could also serve as a general justification for all the time we spend with the entertainment-industrial complex.

We Americans are very good at wasting. Maybe it is because we have been given so much. We waste our bountiful food and good water. We waste power and our natural resources. We stuff our unwanted stuff in landfills to overflowing. Could it be that the richer people get, the more wasteful they become?

We certainly waste time arguing with each other. This is not solely an American problem, of course. People have been arguing and fighting with one another since always. It’s nothing new. Still, it seems much more intense these days, much more out there than at other times in the past. Spending so much time and effort trying to convince each side they are wrong and we are right sure seems like a waste, at least to me.

Personally, I am convinced and convicted that I waste way too much of my time. Isn’t there a better way to use it? When I get into such moods, I try to recall the oft-quoted question from the poet Mary Oliver:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

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