Finding the Time
Early summer can be a hectic time on college campuses. The academic year ends with a flurry of exams, papers, grades, and—of course—commencement ceremonies. This year, for some of us at Valpo, it was more chaotic than usual. As students were packing up and moving out of dorm rooms and apartments, many faculty and staff members here were packing for a move of our own. Huegli Hall, for years home to several academic departments in the College of Arts and Sciences as well as to The Cresset, is slated for demolition. Over the past two weeks, offices have been moving across the quad to the brand new Arts and Sciences building, and The Cresset soon will be moving next door to them, into Mueller Hall, home of Christ College. As we try to put this issue to bed before the move, everything that used to make up The Cresset office is packed into boxes stacked nearly to the ceiling, fixtures are coming off the walls, and I’m doing my best to keep the movers at bay. (“Just give me a couple more days guys, and then you can get us out of here.”)
Aren’t summer days supposed to be lazy and slow? Every year, as the snow melts and the days get longer, I start to dream about all the leisure time I will have in the summer—puttering around my garden, hiking in the woods, and reading stacks of books. The reality never seems to match the dream. The frantic pace of life today won’t slow down for us just because the sun is shining and flowers are in bloom. My expectation that life should slow down during the summer may be a naïve reflection of the fact that I have the privilege of working in one of the few professions where the work schedule really does slow down somewhat in the summer.
But it is more than work that makes our lives busy. My summer schedule sometimes is more crowded than the rest of the year with weekend after weekend reserved for weddings, graduations, family reunions, and the like. These are happy events that I wouldn’t miss, but they can fill up your summer one-by-one. A sad reality of this age is that we are not always close geographically to the ones we love. As it has gotten easier to move from place to place, the more we have found ourselves on the move. The further apart we are from family and friends, the more effort it takes to stay in touch. And as we find better ways to stay in touch, the more time we spend on our phones and computers.
In the summer (no less the rest of the year), we need to find time to escape the commotion of the modern world. The world today makes endless demands on our time and attention; it will use up all the time we have and leave none for the kinds of activities that, while not producing much or satisfying the consumeristic desires we are trained to have, meet our more important human needs. We must find the time to plant gardens, to take long, quiet hikes, to read some books. If nothing else, find the time to just be with your family and friends.
And if you find the time, I hope you will spend some of it reading this issue, which leads with three beautiful pieces of writing. In “Road to Revelation,” Lisa Deam explores how the characters in Salley Vickers’s novel The Other Side of You are able to discover themselves in the paintings of the Italian artist Caravaggio. In “This Nothing This Heaven,” Jonathan Weinert considers language and lyricism in the recent poetry of W. S. Merwin. And in “Stewarding Creation,” an essay first presented as a lecture to the Christ College Symposium, Julien C. H. Smith studies biblical texts to find an answer to the question of why Christians should care about the environment.
This brave new world is a fast, busy, hurried world. Since it won’t slow down for us, we’ll have to figure out how to slow things down on our own. We can’t really make time for anything; finding the time is really about protecting the time we are given. So however you choose to spend your summer, protect your time and spend it the way you really would choose. Don’t let the world make that choice for you.