Many men go fishing all of their lives
without knowing that it is not fish they are after
~Henry David Thoreau
When you need something done, find a busy person to help you get it done. My mother loved repeating that to me all the way to her dying day, but I have always wondered what people mean when they say they are “busy.” Does it mean they don’t really care about the “little things” that are keeping them from taking care of the “big things?”
Or do they think that life is intrinsically unfair and has singled out them out as deserving of more busy chores to attend to—or at least more than other people in their same socio-economic, educational, or professional status? Or do they simply feel they are above what they are being asked to do?
I am even feeling bad for myself: My day started early, and I was busy ALL day, and here I am late at night writing this self-aggrandizing missive to my students who no doubt “know” where this is heading: something about posting daily journal entries, reading chapter this and chapter that in whatever book we are overanalyzing, or to work harder at their collaborative projects, or to come up with profound insights about obscure 17th century ballads.
And of course, all of this is important, if not crucial, to their future successes in life…
And they have four or five other teachers, one or two parents, several coaches, and probably a tutor or two all telling them the same thing. As it is now, I am afraid that we are all trapped on flimsy boats in rough seas and sometimes mistake bailing as sailing. We are so busy staying afloat that we forget the purpose of our journeys. Or maybe no one has ever really explained the purpose of that journey in a convincing way. Why is it easier for me to tell my hard-working and studious students the reasons for Telemachus or Odysseus’s quest in life than it is to tell them what their individual quest is and can and should be?
The reality is that all of my students will be successful in life. Most of them already are (much more so than when I was a young teenager) so why keep beating the horse that is already winning the race?
It has to be that I don’t want them to repeat my failures, my oversights, my wasting of untold moments, and my utter disregard for the wisdom of the adults who tried to train and tame me. Or maybe I just want to keep my job as their teacher, and teachers, dagnubbit, must teach, and when I get tired, I simply make them do what I should have done. But to say this, I need to regret how I’ve lived, and aside from whatever hurts I brought to people through my myopic greed for life, I do not have any regrets. You see, I love where I am and what I do and how I live. I have this fear that if my life were any different—even in the smallest of details–I would not have the life I have today, which on my own weighted scale of success is an amazing accomplishment.
This afternoon when I was taking Tommy and his friend Henry to another in a string of Fitz family soccer games I listened in as two eleven year olds discussed the possibilities of other universes—that maybe our universe is a small bubble amidst a zillion other bubbles and that maybe there were other Tommy’s and Henry’s in those other universes doing different things—or maybe doing the same things with different results…
…or maybe the other universes were just dreams of universes.
That’s the one that caught my imagination, because I really want Tommy to feel like he can dream a universe into existence. It made me question and ponder for the remainder of the day how important it is to keep any dream alive and to give my own kids and students the strength and time and optimism to will that dream into a reality.
Fitting that into my weekly syllabus is not what I planned to do.
All I can say is I was there and now I’m here.
And where are you and what bubble are you in?