Umberto Eco was an academic scholar, novelist, medievalist, philosopher, semiotician, cultural critic and political and social commentator. In summary, he was a pretty cool dude who did a lot of cool things in the span of his life. As a Berkeley student trying to maintain grades while actively participating in clubs and sleeping at least six hours a day, and also trying to have some semblance of a social life, I feel like I need Eco’s skills.
According to Eco, the way he got stuff done was by utilizing these tiny empty spaces in the universe, which he called interstices. He’d say that if he was waiting for the elevator, instead of letting his mind be blank, he’d have written his next article in his brain.
While I really can’t be as genius as to conjure up entire articles in the ten second span it takes for my elevator to arrive, I really do believe in the power of utilizing the interstices of life. And the biggest one I’ve identified in my life is that of walking to class.
Here are the ways I utilize perhaps the most prominent interstice in a college student’s life — the walk to class.
Prime planning time
I use the walks to class to decompress my week into strings of thought that I can translate into my Google Calendar before I sleep. Let me elucidate that with an example.
Let’s suppose I have to schedule an “everything shower” this week, and I know I have a project due Friday night, and a Daily Cal meeting at 4:30 p.m. Clearly I can’t have an “everything shower” before 4:30 p.m., because my meeting is outdoors and if I go outdoors in wet hair, I’d get sick. So if I slot it in after I get back from my meeting and take an hour to have the shower, I can eat an early dinner and really grind for my project in the last four hours.
As convoluted and confusing as that thought process is, I can promise you the best time to be overthinking it is as you’re mindlessly weaving through the people handing you flyers at Sproul.
Gossip sessions with mom
While this is clearly not as productive as Eco’s “writing an entire article in an interstice” lore, it’s definitely so much more fun. I love the quick catch-ups I do with my mom on calls to and from class, in which I fill her in about everything from Billie’s latest outfit at Sather Gate to the newest protest at Cal. And, side advantage, I reach class feeling especially enriched, because what better way to give my mind a break?
Main character music moment
I play my playlists — be it an “Unstoppable” by Sia type of day or a “Vienna” by Billy Joel kinda vibe. I remind myself of the surreal fact that I’m at UC Berkeley, and I revel in the blues/joy/excitement/freedom/strength I’m feeling that day.
Huge plus of this way of filling the interstice is that I find I mirror the beat of the song through the steps I take. Getting late? No issues, “Sprinter” by Central Cee’s got your back.
Honestly though, I’m pretty sure Eco didn’t think of interstices at the ripe age of 18. He probably thought of them when he was old and wrinkled. And he didn’t go to the best public university in the United States. So you, anyway, have a head start. If you do let your mind go blank a couple of times, it won’t be the end of the world.
Have fun thinking, philosophers.
An Addicted Interstice User