Friday Night at my Writing Table
There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour. For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem. These varieties are lost sight of at a little distance, at a little height of thought. One tendency unites them all. The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”
It is turning out to be an excellent night for putting some thoughts down in my journal, despite the reality that my furnace broke down 24 hours ago, and will not be repaired before tomorrow. Temperatures dipped to 30 last night, and threaten to do so again tonight. The house is cold, but things are not so bad–in fact they are quite good. A small electric space heater is adequate to warm the space that I occupy, and so I am finding ways to live in a smaller space until the cavalry arrives tomorrow.
As I shambled through my crowded chamber earlier this evening, I sensed that I was smiling, and wondered what exactly that was all about. In my younger years, these physical circumstances would have left me fuming. So why is tonight so good, after all? Simply put, the recollections of all the experiences that wove together throughout this day to produce a beautiful existence. All I have to do is recall them, one by one, and then smile at them collectively.
It was a profound honor this morning to be invited to sit beside a struggling, yet determined A.V.I.D. student wrestling with an assignment for A. P. English over an Emerson essay. As she read aloud pointed texts from this sage and faced specific questions, I happily asked her questions the way these A.V.I.D. students do when collectively learning in their tutorial circles. I didn’t have to give her any answers. One by one, she solved each problem, then moved on to the next, and I just felt joy brimming inside me, watching her countenance brighten and her eyes focus every time she “got it.” All I could hope is that she would come to love this man’s words as much as I have in my later years.
After that session, my Philosophy class came in for their scheduled exam (which may not have been a natural high), followed by a roundtable discussion on Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” essay. I shall always remember and cherish what transpired in today’s discussion, watching the sincerity of students willing to explore difficult questions that took them to the edge of their own traditions. I shall never forget the words of one of the girls expressing that Emerson’s “American Scholar” speech “resonated” with her. She left me her journal to read which included a poem she composed about a particular experience of driving through the night that brought her to enlightenment. The vocabulary was charged with Emersonian sentiment, and I felt tears as I read it, and recalled the expressions on her thoughtful countenance every time she responded to the discussions of today.
The bell rang. It was time to go to lunch. But one young man remained behind to talk, to give up the early part of his lunch period. He talked of the values which so deeply stir him at this stage in his life, and then, as he was preparing to leave, told me that this class was undoubtedly the best he has ever had in his educational odyssey. I believe him, and it stirs me deeply, because I have had this unspeakable honor to join his hands with those outstretched hands of Plato, Augustine, Descartes, Kant and Emerson among others. And we still have a few weeks left to learn from others before this young man continues the rest of his journey without me. I am pleased to know that he has been transformed, and grateful that he, the afore-mentioned young ladies, and all the rest of the students passing through, have given color and texture to my life. Who needs a furnace tonight?!
Yes, tonight I have sundry reasons to smile. Life is complex with these myriads of details and decisions that zigzag our way through each day. But I am convinced that we are going somewhere. And the journey has quality.
Thanks for reading, and sharing this night with me.
I paint in order to remember.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.