From the Headmaster

Be Present...

Alfred F. Dugan III

Lights and Leaves by photographer Sam Mao '20

Be present. 

The new year draws forth an opportunity for resolution, and this is mine. When I say “present”, I mean really present and in the moment…authentically connected to, engaged with and spiritually aware of the who, what and where around me. While I have always prioritized this, the onset of 2020 has inspired me to hold myself ever more accountable. This is my Carpe Diem, and I wanted to share.
Why this, now? In my opinion, time feels like it is moving faster than ever. Turning the calendar to 2020 filled me with excitement in realizing that the future of my childhood had arrived, so full of opportunity and promise. 2020 just has a cool ring to it and, of course, draws forth vision. At the same time, acknowledging 2020 made me wonder just where, exactly, had the past year gone… Where, exactly, had the past twenty years gone? So much has happened and, to me, 2000 seems like yesterday. I am reminded, now more than ever, just how ephemeral all of this is. How many life moments do we need to remind us just how fast time goes… How precious each living moment is... To seize the day? 
I have long been intrigued by the passage of time and will often share that I am just trying to slow it down. I have wondered why some moments feel eternal while other durations feel like a blink. Why does time “fly when you’re having fun”? Why is it that when I was young the weeks leading up to Christmas felt like an eternity with anticipation but as an adult (especially this year), they felt like a blink? Why do children grow up so fast? Without an answer to these koans, I did what anybody would do - I Googled it :) I came to find that I am definitely not the only one who wonders this way and, in fact, there are a plethora of scientific theories validating the phenomenon (I have my own, but far more metaphorical than scientific). The good news is that it has been confirmed: time is not actually moving faster… It just feels like it is.
Our lives are full of distractions and sometimes it feels to me like those distractions, those things that seem to pull us away from the present moment, are only increasing as time goes on. There is always something to check, do, look at, post, reply to...always. So, knowing that the day still actually consists of 86,400 seconds, I have resolved that there is only one solution: strive to be as fully present as possible in each of these moments.
As children, our awareness of time is relative – one year is 20% of a five-year old’s life. At Princeton Academy, our boys learn mindfulness practices that will hopefully enable them to cherish the present moment amidst a life that moves faster as time goes on. As adults, we too must model the importance of being present for them. If we do, they will emulate us. If we do not, they will also emulate us, but through disconnection. What is it that grounds us amidst this increasingly fast-paced life? What anchors us in safe harbor? Do we remember to breathe, to look up, to smile? What matters most to us and how present are we with it? What enables us to be grateful for the moment, present in time and mindful of living? How do we find peace? 
While we emerge from a holiday season marked in many ways by the giving of presents, I hope that we can all find a way to simply give our presence, the greatest gift of all. 

Carpe Diem.

  • 2020
  • Carpe Diem
  • inspiration
  • New Year
  • spirituality
  • vision

Subscribe to Letters from the Headmaster

More Letters from the Headmaster