These are the times that try our souls.
After the year went sideways, and a fire was in my head, I went to the Wise to seek solace.
But the Prophets were occupied on Zoom. The Oracle of Delphi was working with tech support. The Village Elders were social-distancing. Buddha was doomscrolling. And Professor Google was buffering. (at 17%, her spinning beach-ball only made me more dizzy.)
So I looked instead through a shelf of books. And I found a few thoughts, which I tack here for you – 24 ideas to help us understand where we are as teachers and thinkers during the Year that Shuddered:
“Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.”
“On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points.”
“In times of change, learners will inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists.”
“Do we as faculty practice education as a way to free students or control them?”
-Kelly J. Baker
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things that I cannot accept.”
“There are no events but thoughts and the heart’s hard turning, the heart’s slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times.”
“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”
“One cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often.”
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
-Zora Neale Hurston
True freedom “means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise that kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.”
-David Foster Wallace
“The theory of democratic government is not that the will of the people is always right, but rather that normal human beings of average intelligence will, if given a chance, learn the right and best course by bitter experience.”
-W.E.B. Du Bois
“Hope is an orientation, and insistence on wresting wisdom and joy from the endlessly fickle fabric of space and time.”
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
“What is to give light must endure burning.”
“Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out – it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.”
“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
“If only the sun-drenched celebrities are being noticed and worshiped, then our children are going to have a tough time seeing the value in the shadows, where the thinkers, probers and scientists are keeping society together.”
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
“The most terrible and beautiful and interesting things happen in a life. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.”
“May I live conscious of my debt to all the people who make life possible.”
“Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts.”
“How rich we are in knowledge, and in all that lies around us yet to learn. Billionaires, all of us.”
-Ursula K. Le Guin
Lastly, a poem by former Oregon Poet Laureate William Stafford, which reminds us to grip tight to the thread.
“The Way It Is”
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.