Time itself is largely an abstraction. If not for the rhythmic changes in the universe all around us we may not have even come to recognize time. After all, if nothing changed then time is irrelevant. We do however live in a world where time relativity is everything. We say time is money and we certainly do value money. So what does it mean to be timely? To be prompt? To be quick? To make the appropriate use of time? Let us say that timeliness means to occur at the opportune time. This of course means that we still act in respect to the time dimension.
Today’s world seems to be one of ever increasing velocity. We must have more. We must have it now, no, yesterday! We’ll pay more for faster shipping, closer parking, express delivery and we’ll push projects like a train barreling down a mountain with no brakes. We pay for that as well. Time does indeed appear as money.
While the term timely as defined means the opportune time or “the right” time, in our world the right time is now, right now.
Let us consider another time oriented concept – timelessness. Now, timelessness is a concept customarily associated with something very old, something that has endured “the test of time” shall we say. What timelessness more accurately means is that the passage of time is inconsequential. In the case of timelessness, time does not matter.
When considering how to design a system of any kind, even under the pressure of today’s now, now, now ethos, wouldn’t it be interesting to create a system unaffected by time? A system with designed in flexibility and capacity for evolutionary change that defies the dynamism associated with time oriented change? What is a system like that worth? Is a system like that possible or even desirable?
In the same lane with speed frequently is growth. Grow, grow, grow. Grow big and grow fast! We can look to nature for some perspective here. Oak trees, do they grow fast? Is their wood not sturdy and durable compared to say pine? Perhaps nature could teach us something about unbounded growth. Consider weeds, viruses and cancer for a moment. Those grow very quickly yet they are certainly undesirable for the fate of their host.
In consideration of time and growth, perhaps we would be well advised to consider that what is timely, defined by today’s ethos as fast, is temporary. If a temporary result, a disposable result, is acceptable then by all means, go, go, go, grow, grow, grow. Alternatively, if what is best is timeless, impervious to the passage of time, then those that have a stake in the system should take heed that expectations for timeless endurance will not be met with haste.
What is timely is temporary. What is timeless endures.