“Time is Money” is one of the most rehearsed phrases in the English speaking world. We are all well familiar with what it is suppose to mean, but what is the story beneath the surface of the person who says it with all seriousness? Sometimes one’s “story” is clearly seen by the phrases he chooses for his mental-shorthand of life.
Who wouldn’t argue that money is simply a means to and end? And rightfully so. In this sense money is the great conduit of personal freedom in a free society. But how is it that money often becomes both the means and the end? For the individual equipped with a sense of meaning money easily remains a means, but in want of a sense of meaning money can very quickly transform into an end in itself. It is the old phrase of Nietzsche dressed in a new robe: the “will to power” is redefined as the “will to money.”
As Viktor Frankl aptly put it, if one’s sense of meaning is frustrated in his professional life, an existential vacuum is opened up; “Once the will to money takes over, the pursuit of meaning is replaced by the pursuit of means. Money, instead of remaining a means, becomes an end” (The Will to Meaning, 1969).
Frankl explains that possessing money really should be a freedom from money; it should be the occasion which “one can afford to pay no attention to money, the means, but rather, to pursue the ends themselves—those ends that money should serve.” When money does not serve this purpose it becomes the possessor rather than the possessed; i.e. the person serves the money, when the money should serve the person.
And what is most interesting about this phrase is that it often indicates how the person lives his life in general. He is always in a rush to get to the next thing, and employs every means possible of getting to the next point faster: faster cars, faster women, faster phones, quicker access to work, etc., ad infinitum. Frankl understands this phenomenon as a defense mechanism, “an attempt to escape the confrontation with an existential vacuum.”
And it works… for a while.
The cure for this sort of existential vacuum? The courage to be lonely! One must find new ways to use his or her leisure time which encourages contemplation and mediation on those things in life that really matter; time which allows one to fully appreciate his or her bankruptcy of meaning in life, and time to find it again. Simple solution, to be sure, but rest, true rest—rest from all distractions—is the most torturous of all circumstances for a person in this state. Distractions keep a man free from himself. As Pascal once said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”