One of the great German philosophers, Immanuel Kant, was very particular about time – almost obsessed with it; it was an insane kind of thing. Once he was going to the university. It had just rained, the road was muddy and one of his shoes got stuck in the mud. But he was so particular about reaching his classroom exactly on time, that he went there with one shoe on one of his feet, and the other shoe left in the mud. “When I return I will pick it up; if I try to pick it up now I will be a few minutes late.”
It was said that people used to set their clocks and watches when they saw Immanuel Kant going for a morning walk. It might be raining, it might be snowing, it might be any season – but his time was fixed. When he reached the university, all the professors did one thing and that was to set their watches to the right time.
He was a lifelong bachelor, dependent on a servant – much too dependent. Kant was giving him double the salary he would get anywhere else. But the servant had also become aware that Kant could not live without him. Kant would get rid of any new servant within a day – his demands about time and absolute punctuality were so difficult for new people to maintain.
The old servant never used to say, “Sir, it is lunch time.” He used to come and say, “Sir, it is one o’clock”; or at dinnertime, “Sir, it is nine o’clock”; or at sleeping time, he would come and say, “Now it is ten o’clock.” He was told the time.
One day a guest was visiting, and Kant was so involved in a complicated philosophical discussion that he forgot to look at his watch. The servant came, interrupted, and said, “Sir, it is ten o’clock.” Kant jumped – shoes, hat, and all – into his bed, and covered himself with the blanket. The guest could not believe what was happening. He asked the servant, who said, “It is time for him to go to sleep.”
The guest said, “But he could at least have said ‘good night’ to me.” The servant said, “He does not waste a single moment. You have seen the shoes and hat…he has not even changed them, because that would take time.”
He used to get up at three o’clock in the morning; and that was the most difficult thing, where every servant failed. Just this one servant, who had been with him almost his whole life…. Once in a while he wanted more money, and if he did not get it, he would go away – knowing perfectly well that tomorrow he would be called back. New servants would be hired, because Kant was also tired of the man – he was always asking for more money, a bigger salary – but no other servant was even remotely a substitute.
The real problem was at three o’clock, early in the morning…. Kant used to explain to his servants, “At three o’clock, whatever happens, you have to pull me out of bed. I will fight you – I may beat you. You have to beat me. You have to wrestle with me, whatever happens, because I am asleep and I want to sleep at that moment. But that is my regular life; at three o’clock I have to get up.”