I want time. Not the kind on the clock. I yearn for the kind of time that makes you forget time exists. The kind of time that being thrives in while forgetting being-towards anything.

In his astute essay on “why faculty members work so much,” Philip Nel titles his query “In Search of Lost Time.” He ends the list of dead-on reasons for why we work so much, with a resonant plea to be less productive.  Why? Because  we need time to think, space for “sustained thinking,” “time simply to be.”  Nel advocates for faculty members to “not work,” particularly when we are subject to the lure of “doing what we love” which opens our time to exploitation.

My work life holds many joys of late, including amazing opportunities to share creative innovations with old and new colleagues.  But one of those joys is definitely not becoming more and more of a time-keeper.  Making sure we are hitting the right points within the designated time frame.  Making sure everyone’s voices get heard before the (invisible and silent) bell rings and we all move on to the next thing.

The next thing is the presentation next week, the book chapter due, e-mails unanswered, the class preps and grading waiting patiently (or not so much). Increasingly it is fighting for our programs, for what we have spent time building and creating, in an era of budget cuts and program closures. The next thing is also the second shift, and sometimes the third.

Time spent.  Spent time.  Lost time.  Unlike Nel, I’m not too worried about lost time.  I just want a different time.  A different typology, genre, character, phylum of time. One in which sun and air and light figure over any clock.  One in which thoughts move like water over the earth, towards and then away from the shore.  One in which the movement of my hands knitting, my legs walking, my lungs breathing, my heart remembered in its alternate punctuality, all draw me back to the long spaciousness of time in which anything and everything is possible.  And for a time, I simply consider the possible. Inactive, perhaps, but fallowness drawing new energy for activity. Fallow in appearance only, deeply considering what is possible and how.  Perhaps this is not less productivity, but deeper productivity, a quickening of creative power.



4 thoughts on “Time

  1. David Beard says:

    We lose ourselves in labor, we regain ourselves in work, and we aspire to action, in the Arendtian sense, as faculty, no?

  2. Mitra Emad says:

    Nice, David. I think I drank more of the Heidegger koolaid for this one. 😉

  3. Helen Mongan-Rallis says:

    Exquisitely written! After reading this post I was left with that same deeply satisfied feeling in my soul inspired by a beautiful sunrise or work of art. You have such a gift with the way you write. I love what you say here and want to keep your words as a daily reminder when I return from sabbatical.

  4. Mitra Emad says:

    You are a peach, Helen – thank you! I think one thing I’m realizing is that the whole separation of “sabbatical” from “work life” is so fraught. Of course one works during sabbatical. One even “labors” in the sense of David’s comment. And yet the spaciousness of time is there when you need to tap into it. I want to craft that into my life more . . . not just in a sabbatical. Which I guess is exactly your thought. Thanks for sharing.

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