An extra hour of sleep. A sunrise over snow. And a good cup of coffee.
These months seem to have forced a particular perspective. They’ve effectively dismantled the scaffolding of my life and what is… and isn’t complete is on full view.
I’m trying to consider it an opportunity, not an accusation.
I have a student at the moment who has no future plans. And he’s fine. He says he wants a good life. And when I ask him what that is for him, he says: That’s what I’m figuring out.
He wants to get a job of some sort to pay his bills. He wants to do some kind of humanitarian work for a while. He has an idea about the specific pain in the world he wants to help make a difference to ease. But he’s in no hurry to get his ducks in a row. This day, this task.
I have to admit, I find it charming. I have no idea of course how his life will pan out, but right now when he sits in front of me smiling, I think he’s taking his whole life with a vacation mindset. Early retirement from the rat race without having “earned it”.
And who’s judging?
Well. Most of us are, aren’t we? Isn’t retirement something you “earn”? It’s the reward for having worked hard for years. The pay-off for having been moral in terms of a work ethic? Having suffered?
This is is the first time I’ve taught Theater History prior to Modernism. It’s meant returning to philosophy I haven’t read in over 20 years. Of course, I’m barely skimming the surface, but enjoying it. I’ve been thinking about the rise of the “work ethic” in the Enlightenment. And maybe how ripping away from the church’s moral constraints never meant ripping away from the idea of martyrdom. The idea of suffering now for a future reward.
We just push our dissatisfaction under us as though the resulting pile of garbage is lifting us higher toward some concept of a secular heaven.
I suppose it is presumptuous for me to use the first person plural.
I’ve been thinking about this in one way or another since the lock-down last year. I’ve another fifteen years before I can retire and read philosophy and history “for fun”. I’ve got another fifteen years to squeeze in time to write, bind books, make things – and figure out what results will be “good enough” to have earned for myself the right to be proud. To be/call myself/feel “successful”.
I look at my student, who smiles a lot. And I wonder if I skipped a step somewhere along the way. Or if I’m just on the wrong path entirely, shoving my dissatisfaction under my bum in an ever-growing, utterly absurd construction.
Sliding the smooth bone-
folder over paper adds
an edge to a world
constructed – united
decomposing as a poem