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If you’ve ever spent a late summer afternoon reflecting on the ebb and flow of the seasons, on the transitory nature of the world, how the sunny uplands of your childhood descended into the frustrations and compromises of adult life, how relatives who seemed eternally vigorous declined and faded away, how your own wrinkles and grey hairs embody valedictory messages from the dying cells beneath your skin – if any of this sounds familiar, you’re also probably sure there’s a poem or two somewhere that sums up your feelings. Well, here’s one:

Time doth flit
Oh shit.

Many poets have written of mortality, of course. Though not as succinctly as Dorothy Parker.

Realising that time is flitting by, we are forced to think about our priorities, or what makes us happy.

Happiness – the possibility of it, if not the actuality – is back in vogue. In this curious stage in human history (in the industrialised regions, at any rate) when happiness seems just out of reach even though most of us have all the worldly goods we need, many would be only too willing to follow Bhutan’s example and use happiness and not economic output (expressed in GDP) as a gauge of success.

Contentment, off which the occasional spark of happiness may fly, is very likely the best we can really aim for as we seek a healthy, lasting, productive mental state.

Contentment, happiness – to achieve it, we still have to put in the effort while we have life in our limbs. A blog posting on Marc and Angel Hack Life describes how hospice residents approaching the end of their lives are all too aware that they have not done all the things they thought they would: “Good health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it. As they say, there are seven days in the week, and ‘someday’ isn’t one of them”.

Shopping on a Sunday, or Someday, or even eight till late, is not enough for some. This week, Morrisons supermarket is extending opening hours at half its stores. You can now pick up your basket at 6am, or carry your bulging bags out at 11pm. Is this time well spent, better than whatever you used to do late at night? To dredge up an old cliché, will your deathbed lament be that you wished you spent more time at Morrisons?

Some will argue that longer shopping hours are all about flexibility, and that being able to shop when you like frees up time which you can then devote to activities you care about. But I wonder. Pushing your trolley down the aisles ultra-early or ultra-late is a sign that you’re having to frame your life around work and similar demands rather than your personal needs and goals.

In fact, the ability to do anything at any hour – such as buy things on Amazon – has a much-acknowledged flipside: the same technology allows bosses to send employees work-related emails with scant regard for weekends, holidays, downtime and me-time.

track stretching into distance

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