Friday, September 18, 2015

Now, wait just a minute!

      It is only the end of the first week of classes at the University of Denver.  Yet, last night at a meeting with a group of students, I saw frazzled looks and heard whispers of time-related anxieties.  This morning, at a breakfast, a faculty person told me that he felt like it was Week Eight (of a Ten-week quarter).  And, I confess, when I'm asked by folks how the first week of the academic year has been, I usually answer "Hectic" or "Busy".  And I think that that's pretty normal -- I've been around schools/colleges/universities for the vast majority of my life .
       I have to wonder, however, how much of this is "manufactured" busy-ness -- and, whether or not it is, how helpful/harmful it might be.  Last Friday I wrote about students making their way from home to campus, and how that transition can be pretty traumatic or unsettling.  The next day, DU hosted "Pioneer Carnival" -- a massive resource fair for all of the (mostly) incoming students.  Student organizations and academic offices (including mine!) were plying their wares, hyping their programs, collecting names and email addresses, and encouraging students to attend their first gatherings.  The underlying anxiety (and I know it well) is that if you don't get the incoming students involved in the first two (at the most!) weeks of the session, you've probably lost them.  And that anxiety is transmitted to the new students:  "Golly, I've got to make a decision now, or I'll be adrift in vast of indecision!  And then what??????"  From separation-anxiety to affiliation-anxiety!
       I am certainly NOT immune to all of this.  I awaken in the middle of the night, fretting about things that "need immediate attention" (but about which I can do nothing at 3:30am).  I push others to get things done "Now!" -- not because they need to be done, but because I want them off my to-do list!  Every so often, however, I'm reminded of the old aphorism "Haste makes waste" -- and I know that's true as well.
      I am a bread-baker; I have been for years.  I've been able to ease, and speed up, the process slightly by using a Kitchen-Aid mixer (bread-hooks are marvelous things!)  But I've learned that I can't really speed up the leavening process.  Bread needs to rise, and it seems to take its own sweet time to do so (even fast-rising yeast isn't instantaneous!).  If I don't let it rise enough, the finished product just isn't "right".  I have to be patient if I want the right product, the right balance between density and fluffiness.

       I try to encourage folks (and, when I look in the mirror, myself) to slow down, to recognize that, in many areas of life, speed is NOT of the essence.  The "Hurry-up Offense" is only used for a portion of most football games (unless you're the Oregon Ducks!).  And, so, at this time of the year, I often find myself needing to re-read Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's "Letter to a Young Man":

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability— 

and that it may take a very long time.*



*More of the letter/prayer/poem can be found here.

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