A Moment without Time

Over the last couple of days Damon Linker’s recent article from The Week about Our Current Moment and and the passage of time has shown up in a number of different places.  It’s a good piece that speaks to the more emotional (but no less important) side of things.   He begins:

Time, like life, hasn’t stopped under lockdown. It only feels that way.

Amidst the pervasive anxiety about illness and economic hardship, it can be easy to miss somewhat subtler forms of distress — like the sense that time itself is coming unwound, with forward motion halted.

He uses the examples of his own children, a high school senior and an up-and-coming high school as a lens to make sense of the “timeless” sensation so many might be feeling while in lockdown.

Human beings live their lives in time. Our sense of ourselves in the present is always in part a function of our remembrance and constant reinterpretation of our pasts along with our projection of future possibilities. We live for the person we hope to become. We look forward to who we will be a month or a year or a decade or more from now — and we commemorate the transitions from present to future with rites of passage celebrated in public with loved ones and friends. This makes us futural creatures. A high school senior applying for a university is living for the college student he hopes to be a year in the future. But what is a high school senior who can no longer look forward to a first day on campus next fall?

And while I would argue that a high school senior is more than just the thought of a “first day on campus,” I totally get his point.  Because we all live pointed towards something.  And right or wrong, that’s how many highs school students are oriented.  He continues:

A life without forward momentum is to a considerable extent a life without purpose — or at least the kind of purpose that lifts our spirits and enlivens our steps as we traverse time. Without the momentum and purpose, we flounder. A present without a future is a life that feels less worth living, because it’s a life haunted by a shadow of futility.

Linker’s great concern in the piece is about our emotional wellness, about what we might be losing in the process of trying to save so many.  And it is definitely worth thinking about and processing, and not only for the sake of where we are pointed beyond the now.  Because it also says something about who we are in this moment, however odd the timing might feel.  That, I think, is a vital conversation to have.  You should give the whole essay a quality moment of your day.

This entry was posted in Notes for a World's End, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

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