Opinion

We don't know how much time we have. So let's be sure to use it well

There's nothing more important in life than making time for the people you care about

Nick Sheridan was a friend, a talented journalist and a lovely person

Time bends. Sometimes the sense of it moves around us and feels so big and non-linear that it
baffles. I’m fascinated by news stories of deep time that we have no real human sense of how to quantify.

Take the oldest forest ever discovered, handily near Butlin’s in south-west England. It is believed to be 390 million years old. That’s a long time, dontcha know. In fact, it’s at least 140 million years before dinosaurs first popped up. The oldest forest in the world existed, therefore, nearly twice as long before dinosaurs rose as the distance between them dying out and us emerging from the swamp. And that’s barely a blink in the history of real deep time. To measure out these lifetimes would take a lot of coffee spoons. 

Even in this sense of time that always was, we are chased by the fear that there isn’t enough of it. That time, rather than being a universal ever-growing mass, is a knowing force, tugging on our sleeve, always there to remind us that we can race it, but not beat it.

A friend of mine died very suddenly just over a week ago. His name is Nick Sheridan and he was only 32. He suffered a brain aneurysm while out running. It was a complete shock and his poor family must still be in pieces. 

Nick was a journalist, a newsreader and host, mostly on BBC Scotland. He was also an author of growing reputation with a series of brilliant kids’ books. We shared time on and off screen. He was a very funny and a very kind man and it looked like he had all the time in the world ahead of him.

When we last spoke a few weeks ago we made one of those vague plans to catch up for a drink because it had been too long, maybe around St Patrick’s Day. But time bends, and we never got to it. He made a lasting impression, did Nick, all of it positive on anybody he met.

In his interview with Big Issue this week, Eric Cantona talks about time, particularly his sense of how finite
it is. He values time with loved ones, increasingly.

“We waste time if we don’t spend time with the people we love,” he says. “And we waste time if we don’t say to the people we love that we love them.”

Eric knows. 

In moments of clanging mortality, at times when illness strikes those close to us or we are hit by loss, we reflect on time passed, on time lost. We search for meaning and rationality when, frequently, there is none. In the search for answers we seek great glowing insight, or a profound piece of guidance, except that has a habit of remaining elusive. There is just this – don’t wait. 

Don’t hesitate. Be in the moment with those that mean the most and let them know. 

Then, deep time and all that comes and goes can look after itself.

Paul McNamee is editor of the Big IssueRead more of his columns here. Follow him on Twitter.

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