THE DAILY MIRACLE
"Yes, he's one of those men that don't know how to manage.
Good situation. Regular income. Quite enough for luxuries
as well as needs. Not really extravagant. And yet the fellow's
always in difficulties. Somehow he gets nothing out of his
money. Excellent flat-- half empty! Always looks as if he'd had
the brokers in. New suit-- old hat! Magnificent necktie-- baggy
trousers! Asks you to dinner: cut glass-- bad mutton, or Turkish
coffee-- cracked cup! He can't understand it. Explanation simply
is that he fritters his income away. Wish I had the half of it!
I'd show him--"
So we have most of us criticised, at one time or another, in our
We are nearly all chancellors of the exchequer: it is the pride of
the moment. Newspapers are full of articles explaining how to live
on such-and-such a sum, and these articles provoke a correspondence
whose violence proves the interest they excite. Recently, in a
daily organ, a battle raged round the question whether a woman can
exist nicely in the country on L85 a year. I have seen an essay,
"How to live on eight shillings a week." But I have never seen an
essay, "How to live on twenty-four hours a day." Yet it has been
said that time is money. That proverb understates the case. Time
is a great deal more than money. If you have time you can obtain
money-- usually. But though you have the wealth of a cloak-room
attendant at the Carlton Hotel, you cannot buy yourself a minute
more time than I have, or the cat by the fire has.
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!
For remark! No one can take it from you. It is unstealable. And
no one receives either more or less than you receive.
Talk about an ideal democracy! In the realm of time there is no
aristocracy of wealth, and no aristocracy of intellect. Genius is
never rewarded by even an extra hour a day. And there is no
punishment. Waste your infinitely precious commodity as much as
you will, and the supply will never be withheld from you. No
mysterious power will say:-- "This man is a fool, if not a knave.
He does not deserve time; he shall be cut off at the meter." It is
more certain than consols, and payment of income is not affected
by Sundays. 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.
I said the affair was a miracle. Is it not?
You have to live on this twenty-four hours of daily time. Out of it
you have to spin health, pleasure, money, content, respect, and the
evolution of your immortal soul. Its right use, its most effective
use, is a matter of the highest urgency and of the most thrilling
actuality. All depends on that. Your happiness-- the elusive prize
that you are all clutching for, my friends!-- depends on that.
Strange that the newspapers, so enterprising and up-to-date as
they are, are not full of "How to live on a given income of time,"
instead of "How to live on a given income of money"! Money is far
commoner than time. When one reflects, one perceives that money
is just about the commonest thing there is. It encumbers the earth
in gross heaps.
If one can't contrive to live on a certain income of money, one
earns a little more-- or steals it, or advertises for it. One
doesn't necessarily muddle one's life because one can't quite manage
on a thousand pounds a year; one braces the muscles and makes it
guineas, and balances the budget. But if one cannot arrange that
an income of twenty-four hours a day shall exactly cover all proper
items of expenditure, one does muddle one's life definitely. The
supply of time, though gloriously regular, is cruelly restricted.
Which of us lives on twenty-four hours a day? And when I say
"lives," I do not mean exists, nor "muddles through." Which of us
is free from that uneasy feeling that the "great spending
departments" of his daily life are not managed as they ought to be?
Which of us is quite sure that his fine suit is not surmounted by a
shameful hat, or that in attending to the crockery he has forgotten
the quality of the food? Which of us is not saying to himself--
which of us has not been saying to himself all his life: "I shall
alter that when I have a little more time"?
We never shall have any more time. We have, and we have always
had, all the time there is. It is the realisation of this profound and
neglected truth (which, by the way, I have not discovered) that has
led me to the minute practical examination of daily time--