Wednesday, October 14, 2009

3 x Three Beautiful Things 10/11-13/09: Renewal, PJs, Homer Now, Suffering, Truth, Betting, Depth, Annoyed No More

1. In our renewed friendship, Colette has sent me wonderful photographs of happy and endearing times, especially with her children.

2. Go to church? Or spend the day in my pajama bottoms and T-shirt working on my WR 121 course, posting help for my students on the course instruction page? Sorry, God. My students trumped you. So did my pajamas.

3. I love the exhilaration of opening up the existential aspects of The Odyssey and to feel the wonder in the classroom as students begin to see that this old literature is not absolutist, but that Homer experienced the world as a murky, gray, misty, unreliable, ever-changing, relativistic, puzzling, morally ambiguous place as we do. I hope my students will really learn that there's no such thing as "back then".

4. Suffering chastens, refines, enlightens, empties, fills, etc: just some of the verbs my World Lit. students employed as we look at what suffering does rather than what it is.

5. Homer and Tim O'Brien both know that when it comes to truth, whether a thing actually happened or not is irrelevant: story-truth gets at it more deeply, reliably, emotionally, and spiritually than happening-truth. My students faces told me that their minds were conditioned to see truth as most reliably conveyed by what happened, by facts, and I could see that Tim O'Brien was messing with them in a good way when he claims to be telling the truth when he says, "I killed a man" and when he says, "I never killed a man".

6. Maybe my students are beginning to see that among the things we carry is the truth of our stories, whether the stories actually "happened" or not.

7. I was somehow relieved to know that my poker friend R. S. got suckered into a bad bet and went all in with two Jacks when he knew there was a straight on the table and lost all his chips and got knocked out of the Zynga weekly tournament. I'm not happy for R.S.'s misfortune, but reassured, somehow, that as good a player as R. S. sometimes slips up. My mental tendency is to think that only I, Raymond Pert, would get sucked into a bad poker bet.

8. I think my WR 121 students might be starting to understand that the foundation of thinking about, exploring the meaning of, and writing about loss is in the shared human experience, in the emotional truth, not in whether the writer and the reader had the same thing happen to them.

9. A group of students were annoyed with Tim O'Brien's story "Good Form". Why's he repeat himself? I don't get it! I thanked them for being annoyed, with a broad smile, and we dug into this brief story/chapter, and soon my smile was on my students' faces, and they were nodding and saying, "Ohhh" and we kept talking about the story, even during the break and they weren't annoyed any longer and I couldn't sleep when I got home I was so happy and stimulated by their learning.

1 comment:

Michael said...

I found this post incredibly moving. I also teach at Lane Community College. While I consider myself open to, and interested in my students, I don't know their stories the way you do. Perhaps, by not knowing their stories, I insulate myself from the weight of suffering so poignant in your post.

But I share your outrage. Not one to swear lightly in class, I recently found myself talking about not giving a damn about so-called grade inflation, at least so long as we continue not just to "bail out," but actually reward the Wall St. assholes who have gotten rich for doing nothing but speculate on empty promises, the "toxic assets" that our damned politicians, Republican and Democrat alike, have spent decades turning a blind eye to, until they were forced to attend. A plague on both their houses!

Unearned wealth grows exponentially in tandem with unearned poverty. Like you, I want to do everything I can to help my students have a chance at improving their lives, in every way, but I can no longer pretend that this society is a meritocracy, in any meaningful way.