“Here haste meets with time”

by Carl Bossard

What is to shape and to remain must become an experience. Lingering is necessary for experience. But a while needs time. A purpose - beyond the holiday season. Also for school.
We all know the burden of haste. We experience our epoch as a dynamic structure. Its characteristics are forward, speed, non-stop, “move” and “beats per minute” are key terms. The social motto: always faster, always more efficient. Transit has become a principle, our form of existence is the breakneck pace. We are competing while living and we all want to be winners: “Be fast or be the last”. Progress is equated with steady acceleration. Modernity is characterized by flights and volatility, by the continuing separation of tradition and origin. In favor of a future which is increasingly difficult to predict.

Zeitgeist is called tempo

The telegraph removed the room, the internet the time. The natural pace of man is lagging behind. This brings us into breathlessness, even in schools. Many years ago, French poet Charles Baudelaire formulated the new experience in a single and terse sentence: “Le temps mange la vie.”¹ Time consumes life.
Now they have come, the most precious weeks of the year, as a Neckermann catalog has once euphorically described the days of our vacations. They could show us that there is also the contrary, lingering, while, boredom. Everyone knows it, this boredom, no one likes it. What a pity. And yet, this twin sister of leisure was inherent in luxury. The one is living luxuriously who disposes of the necessary things such as time and leisure, space and serenity. This, at least is
Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s opinion in his “Dialogue on Luxury.” ² These had become now the truly rare luxury goods.

Boredom as “windless calm of the soul”

“Here haste meets with time”, is written above a beautiful mountain chapel’s tiny entrance. The old inscription invites you to linger. Like Ludwig Wittgenstein’s greeting of the philosopher: “I have time.” But who still has time today? And who indeed has a lot of time, or just: boredom (in German: “Lange-Weile” which means “a long while”). And like Friedrich ­Nietzsche in Sils Maria, who can still afford, long sojourning walks, at the same time enjoying the “windless calm of the soul”? Thus he experienced boredom – as an inspiring zone of pause and lingering, as a creative space of reflection and conceptualisation of the thought. It is lingering thinking to which no app rushes to help.

Plea for leisure

The flaneurs of the past have disappeared. And the folksongs’ lazy fellows no longer exist, these vagabonds, leisurely wandering from one mill to another and sleeping under the stars. In a Czech proverb their sweet idleness is described with a metaphor: They are looking through the dear Lord’s window. Whoever looks through the dear Lord’s window is not bored. On the contrary. He is satisfied, even happy.
In our world idleness – or exactly leisure – has become inactivity; but this is something quite different: the idle man is bored. He is always searching for activity and movement; otherwise he‘s missing them. That’s why he flees from boredom and searches “action.” Perhaps that’s why he does a bungee jump off bridges and searches for the thrill in an adventure park, strolls through the consumption temples being on a shopping spree, or flies and flees around the whole world.

Education process as a “digestion process”

So, if it is true that we are leading life on the fast track and driven by the Etcetera, that has consequences for school. The consequences are visible: curriculum is becoming denser, teaching material thicker and learning is thus accelerated. The motto: more in a shorter time – and sooner. But the learning path is not a highway, education is a slow process. Nobody attains the state of knowledge and skill on motorways. School learning can neither be mechanised nor automatised; it does not follow a straight line, and certainly not controlled by algorithms. Learning is embedded in social issues; maturation takes place in coexistence. Teaching and educating is happening between two freedoms, that is, between people.
It is the simple secret of all learning and all education: that both is work and exhausting. Knowledge and skill cannot be consumed in a hurry, just as we pour a glass of water down the throat. Only the Nuremberg Funnel is trying to do this. Already Socrates has caricatured this attempt: It would be as if one wanted to give sight to a blind man. Building up of knowledge must go through me; I have to develop it and to incorporate it into myself, to digest it and to put it into context by reflecting it. Only then I can understand. Friedrich Nietzsche accordingly called this process (of appropriation): “I digest it.”³ The education process is realized in this “digesting”. Digestion also takes time, requires lingering and deepening. Time is the prerequisite of learning.

Haste as enemy of the beautiful and the good

“Here haste meets with time.” This is true not only for the days of our holidays. That must be written above every school gate. The brain researcher Gerhard Roth urgently insists: “Haste and rush must go out of school!” Learning takes time; it cannot be accelerated. Grass does not grow faster by pulling at it.
Why, you may well ask, does Michael Ende’s novel “Momo” still fascinate? The thievish “gray masters” stole time. But the child brought back the stolen time to the people- and with it a certain calm and leisure. Both of these are necessary beyond the holiday period and are required in schools. For “all beauty and goodness,” Robert Walser says, “always fail only due to unrest.”4 How pleasantly sounds the counter-concept “leisure”. It is written from the old Greek word “scholé”: school as “leisure”. The word has been a wake-up call for nearly 3000 years. It is probably the secret of an effective teaching.     •

1    Baudelaire, Charles. Les Fleurs du Mal, “L‘Ennemi”, 1857
2    Enzensberger, Hans Magnus. Dialoge zwischen Unsterblichen, Lebendigen und Toten (Dialogues between immortals, the living and the dead), Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2004, pp. 203.
3    Nietzsche Friedrich. Kritische Studienausgabe in 15 Bänden(KSA), (Critical study edition in 15 volumes) ed. By Giorgio Colli, Mazzini Montinari, Berlin, New York 1988. Volume 11, p. 539, pp. 608.
4    Walser, Robert. Träumen. Prosa aus der Bieler Zeit (Dream. Prose from the Biel period). 1913–1920, Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt a. M. 1985.

Source: Journal 21, July 23, 2017

(Translation Current Concerns)