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.