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Wasting time

August, 1999

THOMAS CARLYLE ONCE remarked that we don't think about having teeth until they hurt. We are equally inattentive to time, often not conscious of its passage until some milestone—a birthday, anniversary, death, or holiday—jogs our sensibilities that tempus indeed fugit. Here we are at our 15th Anniversary and it comes as a shock to realize that we have with this issue published some 165 separate editions of ART TIMES. Time, of course, becomes pressingly real at each monthly deadline, but it is in looking back—or for that matter, in looking forward—over a fifteen-year span that its passage seems elusive, unreal. I recall a time when I was teaching at a junior-high school—now some thirty years or so ago—when the preciousness of time was singularly brought to my attention. I had a young girl in class, a seventh-grader, who was dying of leukemia, and there came a time when she was no longer strong enough to attend classes. I was asked if I would "home-instruct" her, and having already established a bond with her in the classroom, readily agreed to meet with her after regular school hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. She visibly worsened almost before my eyes, each of my visits finding her in a progressively weakened state, and it was not long before I began to question the wisdom of trying to teach this youngster how to make nouns and verbs agree and why the reading of a particular novel was worth her time. Shouldn't her parents be taking her to the Grand Canyon, a museum, or Europe? Shouldn't they be filling her remaining days with something more important than mere book-learning? What struck me most profoundly was the idea that I was somehow wasting this girl's time—indeed, her life—with empty facts and rules, frittering away her remaining time with irrelevancies. Had I the right to misuse her time thus? She was, after all, clearly terminal and here I was prattling about the niceties of grammar or the elements of composition. My misgivings carried over into my regular class work, and eventually broadened out to the realization that all my students were "terminal," that each one of them not only deserved not to have their time wasted but ought to have gotten the very best out of me when they were under my supervision. The solemnity, then, of the intersection of time and an individual life was dramatically brought home for me. I have never forgotten the lesson. I've been out of the classroom for some twenty years now and the little girl and the impact her predicament had on me is still very vivid, has become, in fact, a permanent bias in my world-view. I've consciously made the effort to have the lesson bear on my day-to-day activities and, more to the present point, to my tenure as editor/art critic for this publication. I have endeavored to make each issue "count," to have each article contain ideas and information that had relevant substance, to insure, in short, that our pages would not be a waste of my readers' time and life. We do have a habit of forgetting our mortality, never considering that we are all "terminal," and that the wasting of our or others time is—if not a criminal act—a shameful and irretrievable loss. We hope to continue our policy of bringing you an exceptional publication, always open to seeking out those quality artists and cultural events that will enrich and enlighten your lives. We have no intention of ever wasting your time.

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