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vendredi 13 septembre 2013


On a flight from Madrid to New York City sometimes ago, I sat next to a corporate type gentleman who began pounding away at his computer as soon as it was permitted after takeoff. I was slowly sinking into a novel about Maqroll by Alvaro Mutis. Where do you get time to read books?, he asked me, not making any attempt to hide his contempt, and proudly proclaiming his credentials, “ I have not read a book in five years!”. He was an accountant on the rise at PriceWaterHouseCooper in New York City, “I have been in Madrid for five days for a conference, I didn’t even get to see the city”.
I looked at him, not returning his look of contempt, and said: I make time, for my self and my friends, I read because I want to be a good spectator of this life. And I added, with a little glint of mischief in my eyes, Have you ever thought of going to a cemetery and lying down? Death will arrive soon enough. I didn’t wish to insult him by adding he was already dead anyway.
He didn’t talk to me for the rest of the trip. I am sure we both were happier for that.
According to some social scientists, these modern day corporate ladder climbers are very similar to the poor roadside vegetable sellers in impoverished nations of Asia or to the American or the British or Australian who lives from pay cheque to pay cheque who are poor for lack of money.  What my seatmate lacked was Time, a mismanagement of time in quest for further lack of time.
The social researchers further go on to define those who “lack of time” into a category of “scarcity-mindset”, a way of behaving brought on by the lack of something-whether it is money in the case of the roadside vendor, security in case of the American worker, calories in case of a person battling with overweight, friends for those who are lonely or rejected by their families, time for the corporate types who want to go  quicker up the ladder of financial security. The benefits of such a mindset are not to the sufferer but to the social forces- PWC in case of the accountant, the moneylender in case of the vegetable seller in Asia. But this gives the sufferer a sense of worth of  a minute, an hour, 100 calories, few cents, smiles/hugs/kisses.  Just ask a lonely person, an elderly couple neglected by their children, about the value of love and hugs!
The danger is further narrowing of the world view of the average person, already reached by the plethora of holders of MBA and other degrees that begin with M, where their worlds consist only of things they studied at the university- not Literature, not Philosophy, not travel, not compassion for the other..all that which we call Life.  Perhaps that is what prompted me to think that the busy accountant with no time was already dead. And prompted me to advice: Go buy yourself a plot in the cemetery, and lie down, Death will arrive soon enough.
Feeling poor, either because you lack money or feel a sensation of lack of money because you fear the lack of security, can lower ones IQ. Anxieties about friendless-ness,  love/hugs/kisses, lacking or perceived as lacking, can affect your performance, whether at work or at the dining table.
Does Loneliness contribute to overweight or Obesity?  Do people who lack “time” also have problems dealing with their weight?
Does the sense of not having “time” make you neglect your nutrition, you have money but no time for “Zumba” classes?, leading to overweight, obesity and pre-diabetes and become a burden on the society and the health care system?
When I am requested to give career advice to young people, I try to make sure that they are not headed in the direction of scarcity mindset but a sensation of Plenty MindSet. Happiness and Money are not necessarily related, over and above your immediate needs,  as my good friend, the poor but the best Family Physician in South Dakota once said: you can chase happiness or money, but never both!  This principle is well lived by my good friend, the humble man of Bogor, Hendra Pranoto.
He has a thriving business, various branches of which are handled by selected men in their fifties. He tells them to train younger people to take over their jobs, so that they will have time. He gives them the security of the job, but also time to enjoy that security, time to do more exercise, time to travel together, time to eat together on a regular basis. On an average day of work, up to three hours, he and his managers spend time together, exercising in the early morning by the lake, partaking in delicious Indonesian home cooked breakfasts, in general sharing time together. He deliberately plans his overseas business trips so that the business dealings are short but he and his managers get to spend time in the location and enjoy the local culture and food.  Curiously enough, this has freed him to give plenty of time to his family (so far this year, they have been to Europe twice, once to the USA, twice to Bali, once to Phuket) but allows him to spend time with his friends from various countries. In San Francisco, KL, Brussels, Barcelona, Milan, Copenhagen, Phnom Penh, Bangkok or Singapore.., you would see him often enjoying the company of his friends.
In the last six months, I have seen him in Paris, Brussels on two different occasions, once n Bali, Bogor, Singapore, Amsterdam. It is incredible indeed and now we are making plans to go to Cuba together.
I have felt always and have insisted this to my friends and lovers.. The greatest gift you can give me is TIME, in this I am Cuba, in Miami, in South East Asia..
In our Plenty Mindset, we also become less selfish, you have time to do humanitarian projects, simple ones involving one individual near home or groups of people living far away from your home.
My good friend MC who lives in KL used to say, You live 12 000 miles away but I see you more often than some of my friends who live in KL, just ten miles away! Her devotion to friends and the great gift of time to them, adds a lustre to the meaning of the world Friendship.
As I was writing this, I realized birds of a feather flock together.  None of my close friends have this Scarcity Mindset! HP in Bogor, MC in KL, Dr W and Brother J in Miami, my sister friends DBSG in Yakama, SL among Kikapu, many others in the Indian country like sister WLS in Standing Rock and who can forget the sage of Sioux city, who always makes time for me when I appear in Sioux City, Iowa!
I truly dislike, when someone says, I don’t have time.
Written on an Air Berlin Flight
12 September 2013, from Dusseldorf to Miami,
Listening to Arab music , Shoreen and Amr Diab, on the IFE system
The wine was 2012 Silvaner-Chardonnay, only sansibar, Dreissigacker.
The seat next to me was empty. In this cabin, not a single person had their computer or tablet on, looking for that feeling of not having time. The 9 hour 30 minute flight was very enjoyable and went smoothly.
Scarcity: Why having too little means so much
Sendhill Mulainathan and Eldar Shafir
Published 2013