By Roshan Shah, WordForPeace.com
If you’ve travelled by train in India, you might have seen men walking up and down the aisles of the compartments or along station platforms with baskets slung around their necks, filled with an assortment of homemade goodies—roasted chickpeas, salted horse gram, spiced puffed rice, and the like. “Time pass! Time pass!’ they call out as they go about selling their wares.
Munching on an assortment of things to eat that are sold on the train by itinerant peddlers is one way for bored passengers, who have nothing else to do and who face a long journey ahead, to ‘time pass’—that is, to somehow while away their time. You may not be particularly hungry, but nibbling at half a dozen soggy samosas or onion pakoras dripping with oil or munching on a bag of peanuts is, you think, a fine way to keep yourself busy and amused, at least for a while, till an hour later, when you are tempted to buy something else from another peddler. The food may not be at all good for your system, but that doesn’t worry you in the least. Your concern is simply ‘time pass’, to manage to keep yourself occupied somehow or the other, until, finally, your train arrives at its destination.
For many people, too, life itself is one long ‘time pass’. They have no idea as to what the purpose of human life in general, and theirs in particular, is. As far as they are concerned, they are here, in this world, simply for ‘time pass’, until, finally, death takes them away. Bereft of a lofty purpose to live for, their life becomes, sooner or later, a painful drudgery that simply has to be put up with, till at last death relieves them of their existence on earth. When their initial zest for life begins to wane (often, this happens with the onset of middle-age), they become like the utterly bored train passenger who pines for his journey to come to a quick end but at the same time has no choice but to put up with the painful fact that his train would take a good 48 hours to reach its destination. In both cases, the journey is felt as a terrible torture that one simply has to endure, somehow or the other.
If thought of simply as ‘time pass’, a journey on a train or the journey of life itself sooner or later becomes absolutely intolerable. In order to keep themselves going and to prevent themselves from falling into depression or even insanity in the face of what seems an utterly boring and meaningless existence, people who think of life as simply ‘time pass’ try to fill their lives by being perpetually busy, doing different things, distracting themselves with this and that—almost anything that comes their way. If a bored train passenger does ‘time pass’ by gorging on different types of food that may not at all be good for his health, a person who is bored with life, bereft of a higher purpose to live for, plods through life by doing things just for the sake of somehow passing time and escaping boredom. This could take the form of over-indulgence in activities—such as earning, working, eating, shopping, consuming, socializing, and entertainment, for instance— that are necessary in moderation but dangerous, to oneself as well as, often, to others, when done in excess. Such busy-ness becomes a compulsion, an end in itself, engaged in simply for the sake of keeping oneself distracted and relieving oneself of an intolerable feeling of boredom. It is being busy simply for the sake of ‘time pass’, and not because it is truly necessary and good for oneself and others. Such ‘time-pass’ could also take the form of gossiping, intriguing, politicking, trying to run other people’s lives for them or squabbling with relatives and neighbours. Addiction to TV or Facebook, being hooked to the ‘smart’ phone or compulsively ‘hanging out’ in shopping malls are other common forms of ‘time-pass’. Any which way, it seems, to simply pass time for want of any higher purpose to live for.
Various religions tell us, in their different ways, that God has created us and sent us here, to the earth, for a definite purpose—certainly not for ‘time pass’. We can discover this purpose from the revelations that God has communicated to us through His messengers. We, each one of us, can also pray to God to disclose to us what this purpose is. Then, if we choose to pursue this purpose, time becomes for us not something to be simply passed or whiled away somehow, but, rather, something to be very wisely and carefully spent in order to fulfill the purpose of our existence. A life spent in this way is a truly meaningful and satisfying one.
There is no compulsion in this matter, though. We can also, if we so choose, not care at all about the purpose of why God created us and can spend our short spell of time on this planet simply doing ‘time pass’—in which case, we are bound, sooner or later, to meet with frustration and despair. If that is the choice we make, after a point, life will seem utterly meaningless and futile, a heavy drag that just has to be put up with, like a very long train journey. And then, instead of spending the time we have been blessed with in a way that works to fulfill the purpose of human life, we will fritter it away by being ‘busy’ doing this and that simply to ‘time pass’, till death whisks us away.
And what an utter waste of our precious life that would be, with ominous consequences for our eternal Hereafter!