Wouldn’t you love to have a Magic Button that, when pressed, adds an extra hour to your day?
Just think. Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, overextended or over a barrel, all you have to do is push the Magic Button and presto, you’ve got an additional 60 minutes – 3,600 whole seconds – to do with as you please.
My guess is you’d pay plenty to acquire such a device. Even now, you might be fantasizing about it. After all, who among us can deny wishing, “Oh, if only I had more time.”
The accelerating pace of practice doesn’t help. We’re asked to do more in less time. Meanwhile, last I checked, there’s still the same number of hours in a day, and days in a year, as there were in the 1500s when Pope Gregory XIII issued his papal bull, which is not to be confused by the daily bull that sucks up our time.
All of which brings to mind a lawyer who once worked down the hall from me. He could have used a dozen Magic Buttons.
“Can’t talk,” he’d say, hurrying to a court hearing that had started five minutes earlier, or to pick up a kid waiting for him, or to make it to the bank before it closed.
You Are Where You Are
This was several millennia ago, back in Pope Gregory’s day, when I was a young lawyer practicing on Broad Street in Charleston. From my office, I could see the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, which I imagined was filled with dilatory lawyers.
My chronically harried friend lived his life behind the eight ball. To him, it was not just a rat race, it was a non-stop rodent marathon. Needless to say, he had grown somewhat cynical about his job.
“There are only three pleasures in practicing law,” he told me. “Getting a continuance, getting an extension of time to answer, and getting paid.”
I came to consider him a sort of reverse mentor. I’d watch and take notes as he’d rush to another appointment, or dash back in with his face red and his hair sticking up, or gulp coffee in preparation for another all-nighter to meet an urgent deadline.
“I should have listened to my mother,” he’d groan. “She told me to go into podiatry,”
Which made sense, because his feet were always hurting from all that rushing around.
Holding Infinity in Your Hand
Then one day he didn’t show up for work. He was absent the next day too. I heard he’d had some sort of medical emergency and been hospitalized. Several of us in the building pitched in to cover his cases.
When he returned, he looked different. His gait was slower. His face thinner. And despite having gone through what must have been a harrowing experience, he seemed calmer. He smiled more often.
And most incredibly, he had a Magic Button. Well, actually it wasn’t a button. It was a small rubber ball. He had gotten it from his doctor, who told him to squeeze it – preferably while comfortably seated, with the lights dimmed – whenever he started feeling stressed.
“Works like a charm,” he told me, as he sat there squeezing his ball and looking blissful as a Trappist monk. “No more worries.”
Not only that, but he’d become something of an evangelist for the Power of Now.
“Slow down, slow down,” he called out as I ran to catch the elevator. “You’ve got all the time in the world.”
This is Not a Rehearsal
Thoreau said the meeting of two eternities – the past and the present – is precisely this moment.
I came to see that my friend had learned this lesson, albeit the hard way. Like I said, he was a mentor. So I paid attention as the quality of his law life made a dramatic improvement.
But here’s the best news.
We don’t need to crash into a wall to get the point. We don’t even need a Magic Button. We’ve already got one inside us, it’s part of our operating system. All we have to do is pause and be mindful – no pushing required – and time fades away.