Today I finished my last day of teaching. The schedule calls this a “exam review” day, but since my students don’t have an exam in my class, we didn’t have anything to review. Instead, we watched Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl. No prep. No discussion. Just hit play.
I didn’t really plan to end the year with this. I was just looking for an activity that wouldn’t completely waste 45 minutes of class time. Turns out, a documentary about words, art, life, rhetoric, and God summarized everything I’d been trying to say for nine months. Funny how things work out sometimes.
It has been, as they say, a year. Cheers to a long, hot summer.
If your life revolves around the academic calendar, like mine does, you’ll understand that the next month is going to be a whirlwind of planning, grading, meeting, cleaning, and wiping tears from students’ homework. I won’t have time for much else besides teaching – and I also have a writing deadline to meet. I’m taking a break from Time’s Corner until summer begins.
If I do write anything, I’ll post it here.
And you can, too.
Yep. Me, too. School’s been canceled for T and Ph, so all three of us will be cozying up in our two-bedroom apartment. I do still have to teach remotely, which will be an adventure in itself, but if I can figure out a system for that, we’re in for a relaxing twenty-one days (and beyond!). Our shelves are stocked (with books). Our TP is plentiful. No one’s sick, as yet.
Still, seeing the same four walls every day gets old (gimme new four walls, please), so T and I have given ourselves a two-item daily checklist to keep us sane:
- Go outside
Day 2, and we’re going strong! Ask again in three weeks…
When I first became aware of the extent of the panic and despair surrounding the coronavirus situation and what steps might be taken in order to halt its spread, I immediately saw it as an opportunity. Not an opportunity for technological innovation, though, as many people have pointed out, this global quarantine (an oxymoron?) will be the first real stress-test of our much vaunted tools for remote working. Nor an opportunity for direct Christian witness, though Christians can and should be ministering to those around them during this dual-pandemic (a plague of flu combined with a plague of fear) in ways that are selfless and wise.*
The opportunity I’m talking about is captured in this short blog post by Kitty O’Meara (HT my brother Smith):
And the people stayed home. And they read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And they listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live, and they healed the earth fully, as they had been healed.
One Instagrammer suggested the earth may be punishing humanity for the sin of climate change. Another applauded the sentiment as though it represented all the justice in the world. If that doesn’t represent despair, I don’t know what does. O’Meara’s quote has a grain of that, but the substance of it is that when people are forced to stop hustling and be still, they are receptive to all kinds of things that they resisted before.
If you’re in the habit of creating stuff for other people, especially short bite-sized stuff (songs, poems, short stories), consider this an opportunity to share. People are cheered by beauty, as Malcolm Guite can attest, and in times of despair, they need it more than ever.
Consider this also an opportunity to create more than you normally do. The leaves of newspapers are sticky with panic over the various shortages we may or may not experience in the coming months. What the pundits fail to realize is that people, especially people who have the chance to sit still, produce wealth. And I mean wealth of all kinds.
*In an email to the congregation late last week, Pastor Lusk shared this quote from Martin Luther about Christian witness in the time of the Black Death:
I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 6:7)
My wife and I refer to this as the “Aaron Sorkin method” of parenting.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve (slowly) gotten better at working with the grain of who I am. For example, I don’t like staying up late to work, and I’ve learned not to feel guilty about going to bed at a decent hour. Another thing I’ve noticed about myself is that Thursdays are consistently my least productive days. I’ve always hated Thursdays because I feel like I’m never working hard enough, and the worse I feel, the worse I work. All that to say, this Thursday, I’ve been puttering around and doing a bunch of little things, and my day’s been going super well. Work with the grain, folks.