When any real progress is made, we unlearn and learn anew what we thought we knew before. We go picking up from year to year and laying side by side the disjecta membra of truth, as he who picked up one by one a row of a hundred stones, and returned with each separately to his basket.
Henry David Thoreau, Journal, December 27, 1837
These are some of the recorded words of the twenty-year-old Henry David Thoreau during the Christmas season of his earliest, tender years. I am still in awe of the wisdom and insight he already possessed at such a young age. Twenty-seven years after I began teaching, I admit that I backed into education, having no idea it would become a lifelong occupation. By the time I had finished my formal studies, I realized I was hooked, and every job I held since graduation found me wishing I could read and record what I was then reading for pleasure and set up a forum for discussing ideas. Teaching presented that opportunity, and I am fortunate that I recognized the richness of the offer.
Today was the last formal day of high school. Two half-days remain for semester exams. I tried to tell my students what I thought of them, and of course know in my heart that a few spoken words could never encapsulate what they brought into my life these past thirty-six weeks. But I tried, nevertheless. And now, I have an artist residency to pursue, then a summer institutute in Advanced Placement Art History, then a summer institute for A.V.I.D., and then two summer school semesters of English IV (British Literature). And then a week-and-a-half holiday before the fall semeser commences. But that is my life, a life of learning, and in my later years, it is richer than ever before. It has become my oxygen.
I am pausing in the midst of packing and organizing for my next excursion, but still wanted to get these words out: the highest compliment ever paid me by students and colleagues is “Renaissance Man”. I got to hear the words again this year, and still blush at the label, knowing I have those sentiments, those interests, but not the skill set. I am in awe of the polymaths that spark the highlights in our intellectual constellations. Thinkers with names like Leonardo, Thoreau, Freud, and the list goes on–geniuses who mastered the twin disciplines in the schools of arts and sciences. I have always wished I could stand in their company. But no. I’ve always been a “wienie” in math and science. And as to the fine arts, yes, I have more of an aptitude to excel in those subjects and teach in those areas. And I am glad that I had the initiative to develop a skill set when I recognized my natural aptitude for creating visual art. My academic side was comparatively weak while I was growing up, but once college arrived, I awakened with a new interest in the liberal arts and have pursued the academic study of them ever since, and still I am studying, feeling I have so much left to explore, and time will run out before I examine 1% of this ever-expanding field. And, echoing the sentiments of Thoreau above, I feel that I have managed to break apart the richness of this complex world into small pieces, and still seek ways to integrate the separate pieces that already had their own natural integration before I tapped them with my hammer and broke them apart.
As I prepare for my residency, I feel myself overflowing with gratitude at this offer. The past months have been poured into preparations, and I am more excited with my new ideas and compositional theories than I have been in years. Not knowing what awaits around the corner makes this enterprise even more enticing.
Thanks for reading.
I paint in order to remember.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.
Tags: Henry David Thoreau