What if we could gain the upper hand on time? What if we could control it rather than being at its not-so-tender mercy and automatically heeding its incessant demands? Can we manage time and breathe more easily? Child philosophers think so. Here's what i learned about time in a recent circling of little big minds.
To launch our discussion on the concept of time, I asked an eager group of third graders to ponder the message on a birthday card that I received: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” The very notion captivated them. Here are some of their answers:
“You would be young/old…never old/young.”
“You would not be worried at all. Time makes worries and some human a very long time ago just made up the idea.”
“You would always be the same even when you were growing. But I don’t mean same ‘age’. I mean same you.”
“You would know how to slow down because there was nothing pushing you to speed up.”
“You would be really GREAT. There wouldn’t be any expectations at all so you could just live.”
When the children described with pure glee their upcoming field trip, one which they “have been looking forward to since pre-school,” I asked them how they could make the most of their time. Their responses serve as good guides for daily living, surefire lessons in time management:
“I’m going to concentrate so hard on every single moment that I don’t even notice time passing.”
“I will forget about what I had thought the trip would be like and also forget about how I will feel about what it was like. When it’s over the whole trip is mine.”
“Wait! I plan on being so into everything we do that I will always remember it, fresh in my mind. So, in a way the trip will never be over.”
“I want the trip to be nothing but now…now…now…now….” Her brow a tad furrowed, she added, “no then….”
The child philosophers and I stared at the big classroom clock. What if the clock proclaimed only Now? A discussion to be continued!
What if, at least some times, we could live here and now? How about letting the past and the future remain just that? What if we bought ourselves time each day to be more like dog, more like cat, more young/old? Today, take your time. Your time.
Marietta McCarty is the author of Little Big Minds: Sharing Philosophy With Kids and How Philosophy Can Save Your Life: 10 Ideas That Matter Most.