Simon Fowler's Blog

rLiving Day 9: Time (Directness)

Posted by Simon on May 8, 2010

Exactly. There doesn’t seem to be enough of it, does there. It’s also the ultimate disposable item. You use it once, and then it’s gone, and you have to use up some more. We spend a third of our lives asleep (if we’re lucky). And our time will come to an end at a completely unpredictable point. So we’d better choose wisely what to do with it.

Relational Proximity Dimension #1 is “Directness”. Our relationship with someone is better and healthier if we actually encounter one another face to face rather than our relationship be contingent upon something or someone else.

People I know: I have 231 friends on facebook. I follow 409 people on twitter (followed by 374). I work with about 100 people worldwide (plus another 100 in our extended Resource Network). I think I have almost 500 people in my email list, but it must be more than that. My church, of which I’m an elder – one of 12, basically like an elected leader on a board of trustees, except it’s a church! – has almost 2,000 regular people (the irregular ones are banned! 🙂 ). I don’t know how to count people I knowI have six sisters, six brothers-in-law, and 14 nephews and nieces (none of whom live in the US). I used to know by name over 100 homeless men and women in London. I was in a church there for several hundred too. I don’t even know how to count my circle of friends back in London and now in Boston.

Time: Today I spent about 2 hrs 45 minutes “on my own”. I spent an hour praying this morning, and another hour doing some work. Then I spent about 45 minutes in the car on my own, shopping and going to and from helping someone move house. The rest, about 12 hrs, I spent with people; my wife and girls, with the girls swimming, with some friends helping them move house, and a little with the neighbors (“Adrienne” & “Keith” and their children) when they popped over. So that was one day of my life with, say, 8 of my family and friends. I’m sorry about the other two and half thousand people.

My gut tells me that spending more time with fewer people is a good idea. And probably best also to spend it with people I can actually see and touch. Let’s say we want to deepen our relationships with a few people, say, ten. If it’s true that encounter relationships are stronger, healthier, more satisfying, then we probably need to make some sacrifices of other relationships in terms of time spent. That’s because to spend time with some, especially face to face, you’re necessarily not spending it with others. There’s a choice to be made. And if you’re going to keep meeting regularly (continuity), do a bunch of different things together so you get to know the full dimensions of each other (multiplexity), then that’s gonna eat up a whole bunch of time and it’s most likely going to need you to be in the same physical space.

My main point is about time, obviously. I think we’d do well to make better decisions about spending more time, face to face, with fewer people. But it’s obviously not that straightforward because most of us have dear friends we can’t see face to face often. And we want to deepen those. I want to and need to spend more time on the phone or skype or email with my family and friends across the pond and around the world. But the main point of all this is about relationships, and relational health. And I think we think we can just keeping adding people to our lives without detriment to present relationships. But a lot of us are lonely with lots of friends.

How does the way you spend your time correlate with the quality of your relationships?

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