Ruminations During a Three-Day Holiday Respite


I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves. Alas, the time is coming when man will no longer give birth to a star.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

All good poetry is the overflow of powerful feelings . . . The imagination must learn to ply her craft by judgment studied.

William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads

The first key to writing is to write, not to think. . . . You write your first draft with your heart; you rewrite with your head.

Sean Connery, Finding Forrester

I awoke this morning to my blog alerting me that thirteen days have passed since my last post. That was not intentional, though unplugging for a season has its rewards, so argues William Powers in his excellent book Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age. 

Two weeks of high school are now in the books, and the three-day holiday weekend respite has been delicious so far. From the moment I walked out of the school Friday afternoon, my mind has been seething with memories of the past two weeks of classes–all of them invigorating. In the philosophy and art history classes, I’ve been employing Nietzsche’s model of Apollo vs. Dionysus, which he set forth in his 1872 work The Birth of Tragedy. In this work he argues that the creative life is a constant struggle between the forces of Apollo (order, structure, reason) and Dionysus (chaos, spontaneity, passion). As an artist I have grown to appreciate that attempt for balance over the years. I have posted quotes above from Nietzsche’s novel as well as Wordsworth’s theory of poetry and the excellent lines from the motion picture Finding Forrester. All creative attempts embody a shaky counterbalance of order and spontaneity, and I for one like to lead out with my passion, then let reason clean it up subsequently.

For the past several days, I have experienced a series of delightful explosions in my philosophy and art history classes as we have explored the thought and creations of the ancient Greeks. I have studied this material throughout most of my life, and believed I had it organized in a logical (boring) way in the form of “lesson plans”. But the students’ questions and my serious responses never follow the lesson plans, and I find that delightful, always. And I’m confident that many of the students do as well.  After all, the questions are theirs. Nevertheless, there remain those students who prefer to have everything laid out in logical order so they can study their material, write their essays properly (boring) and take their tests (boring) and see their scores (which to me are always imperfect indicators of their excellence in thinking). My sentiments are about as subtle as a freight train, yes?

So . . . I am using this three-day holiday to clean up my lesson plans and present a more orderly package next week. Meanwhile I will continue to explore this Apollo/Dionysus balance. I just finished reading The Poisonwood Bible, a very sobering and deeply gratifying experience in thoughtful reading. My favorite character is Ada, a crippled teenager with deep thoughts, who experienced healing later in life.  Her creed was expressed as follows:

Tall and straight I may appear, but I will always be Ada inside. A crooked little person trying to tell the truth. The power is in the balance: we are our injuries, as much as we are our successes.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to find out.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.



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2 Responses to “Ruminations During a Three-Day Holiday Respite”

  1. Xraypics Says:

    An excellent and thoughtful post as always mate. On the strength of it I’ve ordered Hamlet’s Blackberry which you’ve recommended before. Teaching medicine I think is a little like philosophy, there is SO MUCH that lies outside the curriculum – potentially covering all humanity. I was very frustrated with our 3rd year group who complained because they had a series of six classes on a subject and discovered it was not going to be examined “We have wasted six hours of teaching time!” they cried. What can one do with that kind of thinking? We accept students straight from school. I’d like to see them do at least one gap year in anything (dig ditches, pick fruit, wait on tables) before beginning medical studies. A wise old professor once told me all students should lose three things before starting university (this was in the 1960s) i.e. their acne, their mothers apron strings, and their virginity.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Tony, I’m deeply sorry I took so long to respond. Work has covered me up even more than usual, and I just now learned that I never answered you. I’ll always treasure your shared advice of the three things one should give up before entering university, thanks! Of course, I’ll never get away with saying that in a high school classroom. I share your sentiments that students would be better rounded if they did non-academic work before going into serious professional study. I cannot say I enjoyed it, but I did in fact work as a welder, delivered pizzas and unloaded freight from 40-foot trailers before finishing my doctoral studies. I’m still glad for what that slice of life brought into my consciousness. I’m delighted that you’re going to look at “Hamlet’s Blackberry”. I’ve read it twice and am still buzzed by it. It has changed my life as I no longer feel “chained” to the blog, needing to post daily. If I’m forgotten for being less frequent in posting, then so be it. I love the author’s notion that we cultivate more “depth” in our thinking if we abstain for a season from being plugged into the network. I have just finished Susan Cain’s work as well: “Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.” It carries the same message–there should be no apology for the need to spend quiet time alone, cultivating ideas that matter. Thank you for your response. You do so much for me, personally, with your insights.

      Liked by 1 person

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