I can't remember the last time I sat down and read a book. It's so easy to get caught up in the daily humdrum of news, links and quotes.
I saved this lengthy article — it's actually a small book — at the beginning of the New Year. It stayed in my Instapaper queue until this evening.
I should have read this book the day I saved it.
How to Live on 24 Hours a Day was written by Arnold Bennett in 1910. The book uses some early 1900s context, but overall the message directly applies to today. In fact, the book is so well written that it becomes easy to envision yourself in the shoes of a man in a bowler hat, sipping on a glass of scotch.
Here are a few excerpts that blew my mind:
Philosophers have explained space. They have not explained time. It is the inexplicable raw material of everything. With it, all is possible; without it, nothing. The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You wake up in the morning, and lo! your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It is yours. It is the most precious of possessions. A highly singular commodity, showered upon you in a manner as singular as the commodity itself!
Moreover, you cannot draw on the future. Impossible to get into debt! You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste to-morrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you.
If a man makes two-thirds of his existence subservient to one-third, for which admittedly he has no absolutely feverish zest, how can he hope to live fully and completely? He cannot.
And some more:
And without the power to concentrate—that is to say, without the power to dictate to the brain its task and to ensure obedience—true life is impossible. Mind control is the first element of a full existence.
A little more:
Art is a great thing. But it is not the greatest. The most important of all perceptions is the continual perception of cause and effect—in other words, the perception of the continuous development of the universe—in still other words, the perception of the course of evolution. When one has thoroughly got imbued into one’s head the leading truth that nothing happens without a cause, one grows not only large-minded, but large-hearted.
And last but not least:
As for reason (which makes conduct, and is not unconnected with the making of principles), it plays a far smaller part in our lives than we fancy. We are supposed to be reasonable but we are much more instinctive than reasonable. And the less we reflect, the less reasonable we shall be. The next time you get cross with the waiter because your steak is over-cooked, ask reason to step into the cabinet-room of your mind, and consult her. She will probably tell you that the waiter did not cook the steak, and had no control over the cooking of the steak; and that even if he alone was to blame, you accomplished nothing good by getting cross; you merely lost your dignity, looked a fool in the eyes of sensible men, and soured the waiter, while producing no effect whatever on the steak.
I can't help but relate this to my recent Internet meanderings. Over on the Field Notes Brand website, there is a link to an incredible video regarding a 2000 mile walk to the South Pole. The Scott Expedition was a two man trek to the most treacherous part of the world. The five minute video offers a sneak peak into the time and preparation devoted to the expedition.
These men lived. They used every minute of their 24 hour day. And they exhausted those hours for 10 years straight. They embody Arnold Bennett's wise words from 1910. They didn't just walk to the South Pole — they lived, breathed and smiled as they inched closer and closer to the edge of the Earth.
It's easy to sit here and write about such an adventure. Pecking away at mechanical buttons may have been a method of living at one point, but the life of that living has been drained.
If you have time tonight to read Arnold Bennett's touching work, just do it. Read and reflect. If you don't have time — which you do, because it's the one resource we all have an equal amount of — save it to your Instapaper or Pocket queue. Read it when you have time.
I promise you that it will be time well spent.