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Time and the Art of Living Paperback – September 15, 1997
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"Time and the Art of Living" is a philosophical essay about the relationship between two facts: that we each "strut and fret upon the stage" for a terrifyingly short slice of objective time, and that subjective time, our experience of temporality, is deeply informed by our chosen activities and our character.
Robert Grudin thinks that our subjective sense of time is largely determined by the degree and quality of attention we pay to our memories and our sense of the future. (It is a mark of the unhappy that they are trapped in the present without a larger sense of connection to the enduring self.) And he argues persuasively that the successful and the fulfilled become so because of the control they exercise over this subjective temporal embodiment. At its best, Time and the Art of Living is a profound book with lyrically beautiful prose. --Richard Farr
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In my recently published career guide for people facing job loss, "The Gift of Job Loss", I recommend Grudin's book as an absolute must-read. Time is our most precious asset in life. We don't know how much we will have of it before we pass on. Grudin helps you and me optimize our time.
I looked forward to reading it everyday as I commuted into town on the bus. But then I lost it (on the bus, I'm certain). I kept trying to find it I'd try to find a copy in my bookstore or order a copy online but could not remember the entire title. Then one day, I happened upon a random to-do list/journal page of mine and, at last, I had the full title.
Now that I have the book again, I savor it. It is a treasure. And I now feel so much better kowing that someone else may gain so many unexpected insights from the copy that I lost and which now has a new owner.
I know I haven't said much about the book itself and have only spoken about my experience of it, but if you're looking at reviews of this book, my guess is that this book will do you some good. And if it doesn't, you can always give it away.
I don't mind disagreeing with an author's well-presented case. It was not just omissions like those that wearied me out; the over-broad generalizations did their part, too. Paragraphs 4.20 and 4.22 grossly under-rate the value of solitude and over-rate "the talent to reveal one's self completely." Even in, or especially in my closest relationships, many thoughts remain best unsaid, I have many interests, and share them with many people - I just don't share all of them with any one person, leaving some parts of myself out of any relationship. Then there are a thousand reasons for biting my tongue, perhaps so a passing mood or unconsidered response in the present moment won't poison my future. Detachment from one's past is not as pervasive as this book suggests, as anyone in a "post mortem" meaning can attest. Likewise, I can't agree that "Intellectuals distrust patriotism ...[because they] distrust all their basic emotions." (5.18) I might be called an intellectual by many standards, and find multiple problems here. First, I don't distrust basic emotions - I enlist mine and others' regularly in all kinds of decisions. (That said, I review them as carefully as I review any other facts under consideration.) Second, although I approach patriotism cautiously, that's because the word seems to mean different things to different people, so it's often not clear just what's being discussed. But worse, it's because patriotism is so often wielded with destructive effect, as Grudin himself describes in 5.13.
So, where this discussion is not vague nearly to the point of vacuous ambiguity, I too often find its propositions incomplete, inconsistent, or simply false when measured against the facts of my own life. Many readers seem to find great good in this, and I wish them all the benefit they find. It just doesn't work for me.
It's more thinking about time, or our experience of time, than you'd think is possible, unless you'd bothered to fight through Heidegger.
The value of the book is its creative thought about life. This book will make you think about your life. If you're thoughtful, you'll disagree with some of the author's opinions, but there's some gold in here. I give it five stars for stimulating valuable thoughts, five stars for content (despite some flaws), and five stars for the genre: we need more intelligent, thoughtful books about living well.