Niece 1: “Is it tomorrow or today?”
Niece 2: “It’s today.”
Niece 1: “Oh yeah, it’s always today!”
There we have it; today is always today! And, at AU our day is as productive or slothful as we make it. Psalms 8:2 goes: “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou might still the enemy and the avenger.” Enemies and avengers though our deadline worries be, they can indeed be stilled when we reconsider the eternal now-ness of life itself. Planning for the future is easier if we think of it not as a mounting stressful list but rather as a series of manageable presents. It’s a tricky tightrope between seizing our inspiration and sticking to our study regimes, but we’re up to the task.
The Feelings Behind the Flow
Living feels like a flow, empirically, but, paradoxically, wherever we go in time we remain ourselves in the present tense. Accepting this fact requires an imaginative twist of reason, a dreamlike torsion of typical beliefs, such that time leaks out of the picture to make way for what’s real: this moment right here and right now. Jacques Derrida notes that every instant occurs as a deferment (his term is differance) of every other instant that ever was: “the present is that from which we believe we are able to think time, effacing the inverse necessity: to think the present from time as differance” (Derrida, 180). Every moment is the whole of our life encapsulated and it’s an opportunity to define our success; in a sense every moment in time is all of time. Seizing the day is, to this Fly on the Wall anyway, easier when we realize that every day is the day.
Yet, let’s be reasonable, time does pass as far as our corporeal realms of body and mind are concerned. Grey hairs, forgotten tutor names, and faded memories all attest to the immutable procession of temporality. Yet the future also passes, and, like a zephyr, it zips into the present that will shortly become past. To plan accordingly requires more than a stimulus-response mentality. Even if we feel like we’re in a rat race we’re more than mere lab rats in life: we can augur our reasoned senses with our timeless imagination while simultaneously realizing that anything we can dream up can be applicable to our future goals.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the 1700s wrote that “as reason has little force, interest alone does not have as much force as one believes. Only imagination is active and one excites the passions only by imagination … Imagination inaugurates liberty and perfectibility because sensibility, as well as intellectual reason, filled and appeased by the presence of the perceived, is exhausted by a fixist concept. Animality has no history because sense-perception and understanding are, at root, functions of passivity,” (Rousseau in Derrida, 199). Our perfectible future selves require an active present imagination, one that doesn’t easily scarper away into gutters of distraction. Moments of sensory reality are less vital than our imagined future self, and taking literally our fixed vision of time leads us to a standstill if we feel ourselves drawn headlong into an uncertain future.
Meanwhile, if we shape each instant differently, we can imagine our shining academic future, replete with misty waterfalls pumping out A’s by the gallon. That’ll give a heartier glow to our present tense. A present-minded approach will elevate us out of a land of constant tension: if there’s really only the present then we might as well invite our imagined future in for a visit. Yet, being too in the now is also a recipe for scholastic disaster; we must surpass our flighty animal impulses and plan for the success we want to achieve. All in all, let’s assess this tendency for stress with an eye for reducing the tenseness of our present tense.