The Paradox of Plenty: Navigating the Quicksand of Having Too Much Free Time

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Our world often seems to be racing against the ticking clock. So for many, the notion of having too much free time might appear as a distant, almost utopian concept. Yet, as John Koenig astutely observes in his book “Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows,” an abundance of free time can sometimes morph into a kind of existential quicksand. He has termed this sort of phenomenon as “Angosis”. 

This term encapsulates the paradoxical malaise that seems to seep into the human spirit when presented with an unbounded horizon of time, a scenario where the abundance of leisure time seems to dissolve our ambitions and aspirations. The roots of this paradox lie in the intricate relationship between time, value, and the human propensity to aspire to be more.

It’s essential to understand that our goals often derive their value from their position within the finite framework of time. When time is limited, it becomes a precious commodity for us. In this context, goals become focal points of convergence, where our energies, efforts, and time meet to create something of value, something that stands as a testament to our journeys and efforts.

However, when time seems to stretch infinitely before us, devoid of any pressing demands or constraints, it tends to lose its value as a commodity. It no longer serves as a motivating force propelling us towards achievement. In my own retirement from the workforce, time transforms into an ever-expanding ocean, where my once most anticipated goals appear as distant, insignificant specks, barely visible on the vast horizon. 

As I’ve accomplished much of what I wanted from life, in the face of such boundless time, the urgency to achieve, to strive, and to create diminishes. I’ve given way to a languid state of existence where aspirations seem futile and devoid of any real purpose. I may have a forever home, a loving wife, and enough funds to live daily without effort. But, what else is there?

This feeling is common for those of us who have found ourselves homebound, whether due to declining health or any number of other personal reasons. It’s because the human psyche is intricately wired to derive satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment from overcoming challenges and achieving goals. When we’re stripped of the necessity to strive, to fight against the ticking clock, we are also robbed of the opportunities to experience the joy of victory, the satisfaction of achievement, and the growth that comes from overcoming hurdles. 

In the vast expanse of free time, the contours of these fulfilling experiences blur, leaving us in an existential crisis in which nothing seems to hold value or significance. Moreover, the phenomenon of “Angosis” can also be seen as a reflection of the human tendency to take things for granted when they are available in abundance. Just as the value of a precious gem lies in its rarity, the value of time, too, seems to diminish when it’s available in unlimited quantities. 

The human spirit thrives on challenges and the pursuit of excellence, finds itself adrift. In such a scenario where these challenges are no longer present or offered, we must then anchor ourselves onto meaningful pursuits that add value and richness to our lives and to those around us.

In the process of my introspection on the implications of the term “Angosis”, it becomes evident to me that the malaise that stems from having too much free time is not just a reflection of its then diminished value. It’s also given me a broader perspective on the human condition, making me think more deeply about our intrinsic need for purpose, for challenges both real and manufactured, and for goals that infuse our lives with meaning and direction. In the face of boundless time, the human spirit can wither, unable to find the nourishment it needs to flourish and grow.

So, as we navigate through the complexities of life, it becomes imperative to strike a balance. We must find that golden mean where time becomes not an enemy, nor an overabundant ally. Time must be our most precious companion that walks alongside us, urging us to aspire, to strive, and to achieve. It must never become our mortal enemy.

Sometimes we must create our own goals in the absence of subsistence, necessity, or demand, Only by appreciating and maintaining this delicate balance do we find the true essence of living. Each day we must manage ourselves to remain in a state where goals retain their value, where aspirations fuel our journey, and where the human spirit finds its true fulfillment. Whatever we do, we must never allow ourselves to be encumbered by the malaise of “Angosis” for any longer than we need a short respite to gather our bearings.

~ Amelia <3

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.

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