MS. BROWN'S CORNER
OBSERVE, REFLECT, REPEAT
Thoughts, Noticings, Poetry, Questions, Rambles and Wonderings
Saturday I woke up to the newest issue of the New Philosopher magazine on my doormat. This is the day of the week I get to sit and savor two of my favorite things, coffee and reading. I scanned over the pages and settled on an essay on “time management." Mariana Alessandri writes about “finding time” when occasionally we wish of time to move at any other pace-- to speed up for slow down or even to stand still. Of course, none of these are options, so are resigned to wish. The act of wishing in and of itself is a type of a time-sucking movement towards an inevitable, seemingly desirable endpoint, but of what? This destination-desiring appetite humans have developed is killing us-- sending us towards the ultimate endpoint and, too soon.
The cliches around enjoying the journey are not enough. Alessandri talks about how she learned to do this though the act of reading Proust. She describes how while breastfeeding she would read Proust painstakingly describe “every button, every brooch that adorns his heroine’s dress...” comparing his narrative elaboration to the monotony of a child sucking milk until they have decided they are finished, an act of motherhood many describe as the transcendent act of ceding one's own governance of time. Poetically she writes, “when I was in the right mood for Proust, he showed me the meaning of life. He and I were full, he with words and I with milk, and he let me drink to satisfy. He was generous and I was grateful.” In these “milky moments,” Alessandri describes how when she allowed the cliched “journey” to fill her and it did, illuminating an entirely different read of her world in moments that otherwise could feel like an endlessly “long train ride” rushing along and behind it, the beauty of life in the small moments all together. Sharply, Alessandri observes that when “on the wrong side of Proust, I wished for the long train ride to end...in haste I read for plt instead of pleasure.” She goes on to describe the realization of how interconnected one's own choice oh how to think about time, actually manipulates the experience of time in reality. “We’re all desperate to get somewhere, except that there’s nowhere to go, (Proust) whispered, it’s all flowers, walks and train rides.”
This month I ended a unit with my students on grit, goal setting and perseverance; concepts that require a dedication to understanding time, how we use it, waste it, think of it and how we are moving through it. One Thursday afternoon I sat around eleven tables pushed together in the center of my classroom with my 8th period class. We talked about time. I expressed to them the importance of thinking about time differently though various metaphors of conveyor belts and in poorly chalked out timelines on the blackboard. I explained to them, to the best of my ability, the way we all race towards the finish line, that vertical hash-marked line on my timeline labeled “average age of death” and the way most people find themselves completely unaware of where they are in time because of the proclivity to propel oneself ever forward towards one, narrow vision of the future. “You miss out.” I explained, “Time is bendable. You can actually manipulate it how you want.”
It isn’t surprising students feel perpetually on a conveyor belt being loaded and held on by oppressive, success driven ideas of the future, college and careers echoing endlessly in their heads. Of course, “this is what we want for you, success and happiness, but don’t miss the moments,” I tried to tell them.
It’s hard to not get caught up in the easy cliches here, stop and smell the roses? -- “just look around” I said. “Pause. Savor. Can you love learning while moving rapidly towards your future? Yes, but it will take you magically shaping your own experience of time.”
Alessandri writes, “Proust convinced me to put on new eyes but not by threatening me with regret...Reading is about the sentences themselves, he told me. A novel’s plot can fall into the background and may not matter at all. When I began to read for the phrases instead of for the future, when I smelled and tasted an entire passage, when I lingered over it, inhaling and imbibing it as the baby at my breast did instinctively with my milk, then I was learning to see.”
Learning to see. To linger. Learning to look around, stand still and savor is, in the world we live in, an act of rebellion. I want to teach my students to rebel, to find the liminal spaces of in betweenness as opportunities to observe, reflect and perhaps in doing so, bend time to allow themselves to linger a bit longer, rewriting time’s definition to align more intimately to the one attributed to an orchestra:
Time: the musical pattern of a piece of music.
Written for the MHSHS Newspaper by S.Brown // 12.2018
Marissa Alessandri is an assistant professor of Continental Philosophy, Existentialism, Philosophy of Religion and Spanish-language Philosophy at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. Quotes taken from her article, “The Art of Time Management” in the Winter 2018/19 issue of the New Philosopher magazine.
A LIST FOR NOVEMBER
THINGS INSPIRING ME LATELY, A LIST
The Internet (the band)
People that are over 90
1960’s French Films
My students’ writing
The concept of memory
Dark chocolate (over 70%)
Ty Segall (another band)
“Peace” as defined by John Lennon