Essay: Timely Opportunities – The Long and the Deep

Dr. Dennie Palmer Wolf

January 26, 2021


This essay asks whether we are creating a world in which young people have access to the many kinds of time they need in order to thrive. In particular, I am interested in two kinds of time, different from what might be called daily or existence time:

Long time: the experience of oneself as a member of an enduring community– as an apprentice, a descendant, or an inheritor, or, conversely, someone who has gifts, thoughts, techniques, or works to pass on. This is the time of generations, heritage, endurance, and persistence. An image might be a link in a chain. Or a turn in a conversation.

Deep time: the experience of pursuing an idea, or line of work over hours, days, and maybe even years. It is the trek toward becoming good, maybe even very good, at something chosen (as compared to assigned). This is the time that is often associated with intense making: a wooden boat, a wedding dress, a weaving, or a porcelain tea set. Like the moon, it has phases: gathering, testing materials, drafts, editing, and the suspense of completion and appraisal. An image might be sowing, planting, and harvesting.

Both of these kinds of time are outside of quotidian time, allowing a person to leave the here and now, experiencing what some have called flow, the element, or transport.

I want to share three ideas about these other kinds of time.  The first idea– and on that runs throughout these essays– is simply that the arts and crafts are ideal texts for teaching us about long and deep kinds of time and why they matter to us as human beings. A second idea is that many young people are eager for living and working in these ways– but their access is limited by factors beyond their control like the neighborhood and social class. A final idea is that artists and craftspeople, as individuals whose lives and work depend on these “out-of-ordinary” kinds of time, are uniquely positioned to model, share, and speak up for these kind s of experiences with the full range of young people.

Published in O Brave New World: Looking at Time, Making, and Creativity, essays and excerpts by presenters in an invitational symposium held at Haystack from September 24-27, 2009.  Published in 2010 as part of Haystack’s Monograph Series.

Read the publication.


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