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A Minute Past the Poverty Line

By Jennings Brooks

Have you ever felt those seasons of busyness in life that reflect the dizzying and time warped environment of Inception? The totem spins - wobbles - every few turns. It seems to catch in the air – will it topple shaking you back to your perceived reality?  


Time disorientation seems to be a common theme in my generation - constantly fighting an unspoken battle against the clock – fighting against the work overload that we seem to put upon ourselves. As a college student, I live in a world of comparison with others where we are constantly striving to outperform our peers – join more clubs, get a better internship, have a more polished resume – generally be busierunder the illusion that a busy schedule means a more successful life. In my experience, busyness only leads into one thing: time poverty.


Time poverty is the shortage of time we reserve for rest and leisure after taking into account the time spent working. My generation is one that operates on a timeline of “go, go, go.” There’s never enough time in the day, people struggle with time management and wasting time induces anxiety. We live in a society that glorifies time as an unrenewable resource, encouraging us to consume our present days in preparation for our futures. In a society that values independency and individualistic attitudes, our relationship with time is tied to the notion of “the imperative to surpass.”


A term derived from Ancient Egyptian kingship, “the imperative to surpass” motivated every Egyptian king to emphasize his superiority over former kings in order to outperform his predecessors to earn the greatest honor of eternal stability, specifically through monuments. Is this not something we still strive for to this day? Our overt awareness that time is fleeting appears to be society’s Achilles heel. More time is spent on planning for a better and more grandeur future where we will be exalted as having made our mark. We operate on a definite timeline immersed in a forward-thinking and competitive headspace at the speed of a race horse wearing blinders – incapable of looking back even if we tried.


Philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis said, “time is inseparable from being; each society creates its own imaginary time, which is consubstantial with that society’s existence.” According to Egyptologist Dr. Flora Anthony, Ancient Egypt operated in cyclical time versus our ‘modern’ society’s linear time. The idea of cyclical time was tied to the regenerative and recurrent nature of the world that surrounded them. Because the Egyptians established their daily lives off of the rotation of three seasons originating from the annual flood of the Nile River, their daily activities were not so future focused as our modern society aspires for now. Time was a renewable resource, one that would be replenished every day with the rebirth of the sun god, Ra. Time was not something to be lost, but something to be restored with every new day. Modern society has shifted from this cyclic perception of time to the concept of linear time. Linear time correlates with the ideas of cause and effect, growth and evolution. Linear time has helped to instill in our society direct values of forward-focused thinking and upward advancement. Time is a fleeting, man-made measurable resource and we have seen a shift in cultural attitudes towards how we handle the time in our possession. We have moved from “taking the time to smell the roses” to not even having enough time to slow down and give them half a glance. This mindset shift is one of the strongest factors influencing time poverty.  


Dr. Anthony claims our society’s concept of time is completely arbitrary. “Every hour, every day will be the same on the clock,” says Anthony. The nature of time is dependent on what a culture prioritizes and is therefore molded to fit a certain construct. Anthony is of Puerto Rican descent, and explained the difference in Puerto Rican versus American perception of time. Puerto Rican’s value family and togetherness, Anthony explained, “working to live, not living to work.” This contrasts from the individualistic values we hold so highly in the United States, often putting personal goals and aspirations before the considerations of and fellowship with others. `There are days were I can go throughout my entire day with my mind more focused on the items of my Google Calendar than on what actual day it is or the people in it. 


We are constantly begging the Universe for more time, asking ourselves where the time goes in the day. Complaining that 24 hours just isn’t enough to get everything done in the day. However, the cure to time poverty is not asking for more time to do the things we actually value, it is finding a better way to utilize the time that we already have. It is a common misconception that cyclical and linear time are mutually exclusive, however, is through discovering the dyadic relationship between the two that we will be able to better manage both our time and energy. Only by incorporating our values into our culture will our time revolve around the things that are actually important to us. Time poverty will only be ended if we work together to defeat the notion that a busy life means life is good.





Baines, John, et al. Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World. Equinox Publishing Ltd, 2019. EBSCOhost,

Birx, H. J. (Ed.) (2009).  Encyclopedia of time: Science, philosophy, theology, & culture Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781412963961

Dr. Flora Anthony,

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