Anatomy of a Half of an Hour by Dan O’Brien


Think of  half  an hour.

What bearing does a single half hour have on us when there are so many hours, day, weeks, and years in our lifetime? Thirty minutes, eighteen hundred seconds, one forty-eighth of a day, one sixteen-thousand-five-hundred-twentieth of a year. Time is something that is both misused and misunderstood simultaneously. That is not to say that time is unimportant or unfair. There are many of us who have a slanted perception of how time ultimately affects us. There are many things that can and cannot be accomplished in a half hour. You definitely aren’t going to enact social policy, but you could enjoy nature for a moment; admire the forests and streams that may soon be gone. You might not be able to watch the great plays, but you could finish a chapter in a novel.

So why do some experience such a lack of time?

As if some were given more time than others?

The answer is simple. Perception is the key to life.

Some see only what they cannot have and others see what they already do have. That perception leads us to see that responsibility of our own choices is what frames our lives. Let us think of our elders. This cohort of people has experienced and can reflect back on their years of worry and realize that there was more around them than they believed. They once saw life as a race in which you could never beat the clock. They experience life anew, returning to places and participating in things long forgotten. As we move through this life, we are often faced with the overwhelming certainty that we will not finish what we have started. We barrel through life as if each precious second was wasted if we stopped for a moment. But it is this life that we race through that we are truly missing. The elderly see life as it was: the simplicities that make it great and the complexities that often leave those still seeking purpose confused and bewildered.

It is in the two extremes of life that we see beings understand the world for what it is, our elders and our children. Children are beset with such wonder for the world that they are fundamentally unburdened with a need to categorize time. They are free of this because they wander about experiencing the world around them. Even things that are already known can be experienced anew.

Their choices and their consequences are simple to them because they are seeing them for the first time. They will not slant them and pervert them as purpose-finding beings often do. A child will not be heard saying that they don’t have enough time to finish playing in the woods. They understand the simplicities that we often take for granted.

So what can be done to make use of your time?

Different people at different points in their lives perceive time differently. Most waste time, but there are those who find a focus for their lives: a purpose. You, and the choices that you have made, have created the foundation for whatever walls stand in your way. Time is not the culprit of your ills, but human action, or inaction for that matter. Habit and repetition can help you to make good use of your time because once it passes you by, it is gone. All you can do is make the best of the time you have left. Focus on what you want and stop complaining because everyone else is too preoccupied to listen.

Bio: A psychologist, author, editor, philosopher, martial artist, and skeptic, he has published several novels and currently has many in print, including: The End of the World Playlist, Bitten, The Journey, The Ocean and the Hourglass, The Path of the Fallen, The Portent, and Cerulean Dreams. Follow him on Twitter (@AuthorDanOBrien) or visit his blog He recently started a consultation business. You can find more information about it here:

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8 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Half of an Hour by Dan O’Brien

  1. Kenneth Weene

    Time is among most precious of the gifts of life, right up there with friendship and the world of beauty. Too often we forget to think about how we live in that glorious fourth dimension.

  2. Trish Jackson

    This piece contains several layers of thought-provoking material. Basically, the message is to stop and smell the roses. We all know we should, but we don’t. So I guess we should ask ourselves why.

  3. Louise Malbon-Reddix

    Yes, I so try to get others to understand that people are all ondifferent levels. And depending on where they are at the time will dictate their repsonses, Exactly, is what I say to you, and so insightful!!!


  4. Marta Merajver-Kurlat

    Dan, thank you for a piece that urges people to try a new, more rewarding way of considering and using time. Since perception of time differs but is measured by convention -clocks and watches- speculations about it, from Priestley to Borges, challenge our imagination.

  5. Cynthia B Ainsworthe

    Dan, What a thought provoking piece. So often we miss the little things that are in front of us and never give a single thought to the beauty around us. Thank you for reminding us to stop and cherish the moment.

  6. Martha Love

    I truly enjoyed reading your thoughts, Dan, so much so that it brought me right into the now gently musing on your questions about time, with none of my usual intruding thoughts of all the chores I need to hop up and do in the next time frame of my life.

    Children are so in the now, experiencing life for the first time. I had the fortune of meeting death’s door and having others die around me quite early in my life and as a result carrying the idea of mortality looking over my shoulder. Awareness of death does bring us to understand “the meaning of time” and it is hard to waste our precious moments once we have that consciousness.

    You have brought up a subject of which I think we humans need much more discussion and implementation in our lives of what is meaningful time and how we may define what is truly meaningful. Personally, I go on my inner gut feelings and how full I feel in my gut—not from food but from the impact of life.

  7. Rosemary "Mamie" Adkins

    Dan, it is not often we have a wake up call in our lives. Especially while reading another well told story but you have certainly achieved what you set lout to do. Your article was a great read and did make me ponder what I have missed, wasted or passed up due to how time is spent.

    Stopping to visualize how life has impacted us and what we do with that knowledge is ever so clear if only we take the time.

    Thank you Dan for another delightful story.

  8. Linda hales

    Dan – you’ve given me a lot to think about here and all on such a practical level. I’ve been subjected to severe time constraints for as far back as I can remember, especially in my work life. Everything was always needed yesterday and getting it done usually impacted my company in very large financial ways. The numerous time zones of my contact network added additional stress and so there were many times that I found myself still working away at 3 a.m. in order to be ready for a conference call or meeting at 8. These are constraints that are imposed upon us and invoke that ‘someday’ frame of mind…someday I’ll ‘call my own shots’ or someday, I will live a quiet life and do the things that I love to do such as write, read, and all on my personal internal clock. Life being what it is though, we are conditioned to needing time frames of reference such as deadlines and multi-tasking remains a way of life.


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