I appear to spend my life pissing away both.
They both come in arbitrary denominations, though one is utterly arbitrary, while the other has fourth dimensional underpinning.
I think ‘time is money’ is one of the sourest proclamations of capitalism. It’s the grandest commodification, if not the most violent, because it is literally the commodification of our very lives. By equating the portions in which our lives come with cash value, it gives us a complete absence of meaning. Reducing experience to ‘earning’ and ‘not earning’. We’re supposed to do enough of the first so that we can do the things we love during the second.
Obviously, some people love their jobs. Me, for one. But once you’re paid to do that thing, it’s nature changes. You have to do it. It’s a divorced survival chain. You start to believe that you can’t function without the job, which makes the whole more desperate and enforced. By taking choice out of the system, you make it harder to enjoy the things you’re doing, even the things you enjoy. Freelancers rebalance the equation quite well, taking the force out a bit but often increasing the desperation (at least at times).
But it’s still the exchange of time for money. And, realistically, we’re all getting ripped off by buying into it.
Time is possibility. Possibility for anything and everything. That extra two hours of sleep I need right now to secure my mental health for the day (and potentially week) is technically worth much more to me than the money I’ll earn in those first two hours at work. My time is constantly negotiated with my line manager and the relevant procedures.
Money is bits of paper, metal and data. It is meaningless scraps of information that point towards an enormous, elaborate and ridiculous system of debt, guesswork and lies. It’s called the global economy, and somehow it gives structure to our daily lives. And as I’m writing it, I’m half expecting the whole system to fall apart in an hour or so.
The money in your pocket could devalue in an instant. The money in your bank account could be scrubbed of all meaning in a moment.
Time. Time is the time it took that to happen. Time is the entropy that pulls things apart. Time is the space in which life has time to grow.
Time is what brings us closer to death. And it’s the only thing in the way of it. Every step down that road theoretically makes our time more valuable. We have less, so we should use it more.
It doesn’t always work like that.
Time is more valuable than money, because you can use it yourself. You can gift it to the people you love. You can spend it on anything, without a global structure of financial agreement to back it.
Time actually exists. Money’s only value is as far as it is agreed by the people around us.
Money traps. Time might free.
Illustration by Rosie.