Sermons in Stones

“Who knows where the time goes?” Studying in London, I first heard Judy Collins sing that ballad when I was 19 and Collins was in her early thirties.  I heard Collins sing it again this past Saturday night, this time with my wife, Anne, at the Fargo Theater.  Collins is 73 now, and Anne and I are—not 19.

I have been thinking a lot about time because the President’s Seminar at Concordia this year is in many ways about it.  Called College and the American Pastoral, the seminar uses an old kind of story—about people leaving their city life behind for reflection, play and romance in the countryside—to raise a big questions about college life: Should college be a place and time apart from the surrounding world?  The seminar began in August before most students returned (though some of our great res life and orientation student leaders were there), and it reconvenes on Friday morning, October 19, during community time (9:20 to 10:20 a.m.) in the Centrum.

I look at our lives now, and I see them structured—usually by someone else—into little units of time, a structure tightened rather than opened by our ease at “scheduling” things electronically. We have reached the point where we imagine that we are doing nothing when we are not “scheduled.”  I think of the lives of children now, moving from school (where they go from this subject to that) to practice to church group to homework to bed—each piece has little to do with the others, and a kind of false equality sets in, so that “church,” for instance, becomes just one more thing on the list.

We live in the age of time in bits and pieces– time divorced from the seasons of nature and of human life.  And so it’s no accident that we live in the age of “time management.” Search that phrase and you will get, in the poetry of Google, “about 1,420,000,000 results (0.20 seconds).”  You will find tips, tools, techniques, even games for free and for sale.  Check out where you can at one easy link find both the app called Epic Win (“ a streamlined to-do list that lets you capture everyday tasks”) and the ADHD drug Vyvanse for children and adults.

Here’s my advice about time management: Stop it.  I don’t mean miss class or skip your work study job.  (and I don’t mean don’t take prescriptions you need).  I mean this: don’t “manage” time; give yourself to your work.  Give yourself to discovery, to play that allows to you to imagine other lives and your own, to love and service.

“I do not count the time,” Collins sings at the end of the song.  Good advice.  Don’t manage time.  Instead, ask yourself big questions and take on big problems.  Ask yourself this question from the poet Mary Oliver: What will you “do with your one wild and precious life?”

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