The college’s year just ended and so did its busyness. Commencement has come and gone, the halls are clear and are being prepped for conferences, and I am packing-up my office.
This was my last year as a Resident Director (RD). In the last week of class one of my students – who is consistently insightful – asked me how I felt about the pace of my life. I answered honestly and said that it was busy. And that I had been busy for the past four years. I gave an analogy that it was a pace not sustainable for a long period of time, but that I could manage for a few years. Part of my motivation for leaving is to readjust my life away from this busyness because although I could assume that in a long run (such as life) it is not a pace that is detrimental, my pace impact the long run, the energy that I have for the next steps and goal to run well.
The pace I have been working at does in-fact damage my ability to run well later. I won’t magically regain energy. Runners change pace, but we sometimes forget that is is easy to remain quick-footed when the run requires steadfastness.
My students too are trying to maintain sanity and tend to sprint. It is interesting that colleges are the one place that can be “counter-cultural”, yet in regards to busyness, they are often hyperrealities that convolute what is real and what is fantasy and in turn cultivate a “reality” in which busyness becomes normality both within the culture and something brought to the “real” world post-graduation. So institutions awkwardly sit in the midst of the machine that they (at least some) would like to deconstruct.
Simplicity seems like the answer, but simplicity is not simple. The liberal-arts particularly have a quirky complexity when it comes to simplicity. While we have confirmed identity and purpose in the liberal-arts, in those basic fundamental elements (language, literature, philosophy, mathematics, sciences -both social and natural-, and history) that encourages intellectual and personal development, we are also on a never-ending journey to add to our programs and provide a broad experience. This is good and necessary, but is all too often frantic.
What would it look like for colleges to set a culture in which simplicity was a value. Not simplism, we do not have to negate the complexities of thinking intellectually and academically, but simplicity. What if we reduced our programming and adjusted our expectations to help students learn, but not become overwhelmed or overindulged with information? Can we encourage students that healthy social relationships doesn’t mean that you have to engage with everyone in a deep level (a particular problem at a small college). What if we put limits on student participation and formed rhythms that promote wholeness and rest (the phrase “I am rested” rarely comes from my students and dare I say my own mouth, especially if juxtaposed to the frequency I hear and say “I am busy”).
What kind of institution would this be? What type of “counter-cultural” students will graduate? And what positive change could this existence and restful imagination of Shalom (wholeness) have on the world at large?
I am curious to enter back into the broader working world, to step out of the hyperreality and to settle into different rhythms. I am excited; yet, I remember the hyperrealities of busyness follow many peoples and that their remnants are present beyond the college experience. I suppose this means I will have to cultivate a counter-culture that resists busyness and prioritizes rest wherever I go – perhaps the busyness we should all pursue is one that does all it can to seek simplicity.