Quality Time

It’s no surprise that one rarely finds people of intellectual curiosity (let alone intellectuals) in the corporate world (compared with academics or even the arts). Corporate life has the tendency to dumb you down unless you keep your mind young and active by your own effort. The risk of becoming superficial, having no depth or substance, having little patience for intellectual digressions. Which is probably why deep thinkers tend not to make much conversation in the work place as more often than not it will drag them down.

Reminds me of a quote, from about 40 years ago by a famous scientist: “the danger is not that machines will start to think like humans, but that humans will start to think like machines”. Without quality time, there is no differentiating us from machines. We become like automatons (get in car, drive to work, do work, get back in car, go home, sleep, wake, go to work…).

In previous generations (and still today in rural areas in India), tea time (regardless of your career: teacher, farmer, engineer, etc) was a time where you exercise your brain cells (outside of your typical 9-to-5 job that your mind is trained in) like intellectual digressions and social issues, or just taking time to reconnect with the surroundings. That is what is quality time. Contrast this to the busy life in cities, with the illusion of socializing through “social media” (instant messages, twitter, facebook, etc) and artificial props like high class coffee shops, where it is more of a fashion trend for smalltalk, rather than on substance or intellectual conversations, and where you are oblivious of the surroundings around you (only thing you’re connected to is the Internet).

Quality time is taking the time to touch upon the finer things in life that stimulate your right-brain:

  • Like reading a good book (like classical spiritual literature, or at the very least a good piece of quality fiction).
  • Story telling to kids (even better if you’re creating that story as you go along; in fact story telling and listening was a great quality-time tradition; entire epics were narrated and transmitted in the oral tradition that way).
  • Playing or listening to a raga (each raga is a delicate meditative piece of music, that reflects the mind in harmony with nature, as opposed to western classical music which is an emotional roller-coaster ride of ups and downs, in a way illustrating mans dominion or control over nature).
  • Quiet enjoyment of anything in nature – taking time to gaze at the moon, thunder showers, streams, sunrise, trees, star gazing, or as the saying goes, “stopping to smell the roses”.
  • Yoga, contemplation, meditation, quiet walks, painting, etc.

Most people say who has time for quality time? All I can say is that just 30 min a day of quality time can do wonders. Else you might very likely end up paying for it later — in medical bills and sick days!

My all time favorite art film director, Andrei Tarkovsky, when asked by an interviewer on the topic of solitude:

What would you like to tell young people?

Learn to love solitude, to be more alone with yourselves. The problem with young people is they’re carrying out noisy and aggressive action not to feel lonely. And this is a sad thing.

The individual must learn to be on his own as a child. For this doesn’t mean to be alone: it means not to get bored with oneself, which is a very dangerous symptom almost a disease.

– Andrei Tarkovsky

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