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  • Writer's pictureTashroom Ahsan

On Time

Thank you for your time. I mean this sincerely, and I’m saying this for two reasons. The first is that I’ve spent the last two semesters studying time in a billion different ways. It’s everywhere. Every book treats time, regardless of the topic intended. The second is that I’m about to leave Deep Springs.

This is the first of the last three speeches I give—the last three times I get to hold your time. For many of you, this is the last of two. Everything feels pressingly finite. There’s an urge to do all the things I should have done in the last two years here. The hikes, the rides, the chats, the crafting, the photography, there’s so many things I wanted to do here which I never did and never will do. I’ve got less than three months of utopia left (for Deep Springs is a utopia, but just for students), and this brings out the paradox of time to me most clearly.

Time is always a problem. We naturally strive to escape it, so we don’t think about it until it descends on us. The beauty of Deep Springs is that nothing ever feels like an event. You can run into someone at any time and chat with them—it’s unplanned, yet elsewhere, such an encounter would be something you plan for and deliberately do. We easily slip through the motions of everyday life here, because within the scope of everyday life, we can do pretty much anything. All of life is within a stroll—the shops are an arm’s length away, as are boojs, friends, and food. Nothing needs to be calculated. It’s easy to escape time, one way or another.

When we say “I don’t have time” to do something, we mean that there is something within us—some activity we “have” time “for”—which beckons our whole selves. There’s such a draw to doing what we “have time” for that we can’t break. We pay attention to time primarily through means of the string constituting the draw—by considering what we have time for. The string only appears to us when we are immediately faced with a task, something to do—do I study or hike? I’ll call this string, the substance allowing for an instantaneous draw, the moment. Time appears to us as the moment. We don’t see it in other ways.

The moment appears to us in one of three ways. The three ways are distinct by the way they relate to eternity. By eternity, I mean the escape from time. For the first, eternity is sempiternal—every instantaneous moment adds up to the totality of time. I’ll call this the normal moment. For the second, eternity is accessed and constantly appears in each repetition of the moment. If you do the same things everyday as if they are new, like moving a wheel line or going to class with the fervor of the first time, you escape the way that time seems to add up. In this sense, each moment feels afresh—the past and future become a big blob of the now, indistinguishable from one another, and all time is the same. Time stops progressing so we step outside of it. I’ll call this second kind of moment the repetitive moment. The third is where eternity is a point emanating through each moment, such that each moment can be the end of time—every moment feels like the final moment. Consciousness of the end is constant, so every moment feels like it could step out of time; as an end, it feels like nobody else can possess this moment the way you do. This is to do everything as if it completes you, just you. I’ll call this the final moment.

At Deep Springs time is fundamentally in a tension between the repetitive moment and the final moment. We’re always escaping time in one of these two ways. We repeat—go through everyday life, do the same things each day, and never let anything else crowd out our obligations. We maintain. This temptation is the easiest, the one most of us slip into unwillingly. Alternatively, we give birth—everything feels like a project which needs commitment until it completes us—until we are satisfied. This is the Deep Springer who hikes when they need it, who takes time for themselves, who reads on their own, who, in essence, creates by doing something new rather than maintains. We tend away from this currently, as demonstrated by our reluctance to do anything outside of the motions of what must get done, but some individuals and Deep Springs classes dwell in it. The tension can be drawn out as being the institution or being oneself—being a set of roles which infinitely get refilled through time, with each class or asserting individuality while neglecting repetition. Eternity is either in maintenance or creation.

Obviously each of us fulfill these two forms of the moment to different extents. We do our obligations and we take time for ourselves. But for me, the balance was skewed. I’m giving this speech so that the mistakes I made don’t get repeated. You don’t have to listen to me, but I hope it helps.

Before I talk about the balance, a slight aside: as a general maxim, one can only tell if time is used well retrospectively. You can’t predict the worth of a moment, for each moment affects you differently—they all unfold eternity and escape time in a slightly different way. Even cooking the same lunch one day is nothing like cooking it another, since each moment affects the next, varying the penetration of eternity into it. There’s no real use in calculating what will be the best use of time, or what you “have time” for. Only the moment itself reveals this to you—and the moment is seen once it becomes a part of you, once it has passed.

My current speculation on balancing repetitive and final moments is that the repetitive moment ought to become final. In repetition, each deed is done as if it were the first time, but in this, the same action is done indefinitely. It loses the character of being a project, for its goal is precisely in not being your own, but in being something much greater than you. Instead of pure repetition, making repetitive time final means to imbue the institution with oneself. Concretely, this means doing your boring task with the aim of something possessing you in the same day. You can move your wheel line, sure, but because you have fulfilled your outer duty, you ensure that in the same day you’ve done some other task that only you can do as a fulfillment of inner duty. You could build your shelf—you could weed your field—you could hike—you could have a genuine conversation with someone—each of these belong to you alone, and you can only do them after taking the repose of repetition. The balance is struck once the day feels like it’s your own, one nobody else could live, and that you could live every day just like this one, but just because of that you won’t.

Too often we live either inside ourselves or outside. Leaving a piece of the inside on the outside is what I wished I had done. There’s another eternity to be held in leaving a handprint on a foundation. Thank you for your time.

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