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Mon, Oct. 21

Cantlon: Everything comes down to relationships and time

As I like to remind each year about this time, the holidays are a time that pull us many ways. They draw us into the spiritual meaning of the season at the same time they turn us into super-consumers. We buy “stuff” for others and we get more “stuff” from others. The giving and receiving is good, but all that stuff eats up a lot of time, so it’s good to think about how important time is.

When you boil it down, everything comes down to relationships. What do humans need to be happy? If you look at early humans, the good things they had in life were all some kind of relationship: a small close-knit group, a close relationship with the Earth and with whatever gods they chose to believe in, and often a relationship with some instrument of creative outlet; their art expressed in decorative crafts, or music, or elaborate rituals.

Or if you prefer to look at biblical examples, what kind of life did God set up for Adam and Eve before they blew it? Relationships. With each other, with the animals and garden they over saw, with their God who apparently visited them periodically, as in the scripture “… they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (one of my favorites).

Everything that is important to happiness is some kind of relationship. There are important relationships with those close to you. There’s a relationship with God, or your own spiritual side, or with the Earth, or whatever your beliefs prompt you to seek. There’s a relationship with your creative side that can take expression in music or art or an attractive garden or any number of other outlets.

Everything that really matters is a relationship. And the key ingredient in any relationship is time. You can’t have a relationship with someone without spending a certain amount of time with them. There’s just no substitute. And it applies to every relationship. You won’t be a very close friend if you never spend any time with your friend. You won’t be a very good musician if you never spend any time playing your instrument.

You can spend time with a TV, but you can’t really have a relationship with it. If you diligently spent hours every evening with the TV for a year you’d have a lot of time invested, but you wouldn’t have anything to show for it. Now if you’d spent that time playing music, or with your kids, or with your spouse, you’d have something to show for it.

So if relationships are the key element in life, and if time is the key element in relationships, where does all that stuff fit in? Well, mostly in eating up time. There’s nothing wrong with stuff inherently, it’s just a matter of priority. If you spent an evening making Christmas cookies with your kids, now you’ve got some more stuff (although this particular stuff probably won’t be around long), but you’ve also spent an evening with your kids, so you’ve got something more to show for it than just cookies. But for the most part stuff just eats up time, and time is all we have.

I’ll say it again. Our little bit of time is really the only thing that we have. Use it well. Happy New Year, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a warm Solstice, the beginning of the return of the sun. Now don’t let those cookies go to waste.

Tom Cantlon is a local business owner and writer and can be reached at comments at

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