My Toolbox

my toolbox

Two Days of Delicious Down-Time

The mind races around like a foraging squirrel in a park, grabbing in turn at a flashing phone screen, a distant mark on the wall, a clink of cups, a cloud that resembles a whale, a memory of something a friend said yesterday, a twinge in a knee, a pressing deadline, a vague expectation of nice weather later, a tick of the clock. Some Eastern meditation techniques aim to still this scurrying creature, but the extreme difficulty of this shows how unnatural it is to be mentally inert. Left to itself, the mind reaches out in all directions as long as it is awake–and even carries on doing it in the dreaming phase of its sleep.

Sarah Bakewell, At the Existentialist Cafe

During my 48-hour respite between appointments, I have enjoyed sleeping longer hours and devouring this book (over one hundred pages into it on this second day) by Sarah Bakewell. In the past week, I have enjoyed three days of primitive camping with a friend and an all-day road trip across Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Now, I stop before heading to Palestine to set up my booth for an all-day display and sale of my railroad art to coincide with the opening day of the new season of the Palestine-to-Rusk excursion train rides. On Saturday, they will tow their historic steam locomotives out of their sheds to sit in the open air all day to the delight of photographers, videographers and adventurers buying tickets to board the train that makes its first run at 10 a.m.

In an earlier post, I mentioned the frenzied schedule that has driven my life the past couple of weeks. Once this weekend finishes, the spastic race will be completed. Approaching the one-year anniversary of my retirement, I grin in acknowledgment of the many who said I would be busier in retirement than when I worked full-time. They were right. But there remains a major distinction–as a student said to me a couple of months ago: “If you like what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” How true. I have not worked in nearly a year; what I do now provides me pure pleasure, even if it tires me out from time to time.

What I want to talk about now is my toolbox, my central aid to coping with life. I’m speaking of my education. I have been aware of what I am about to write for a number of years now, but never tried to put it on the printed page. I came from a family that did not pursue the university. Mom and Dad were reared in farm country after the Depression, and were sent to the one-room school till they were sturdy enough to work in the fields, she for four years, he for three. They learned to read, write and do simple math. My brother entered the Marine Corps, my sister a two-year secretarial school. All of my family members received the education needed to pursue their respective occupations. As for me, I was always the least practical of the brood. I was the artist, the dreamer, with no clue of a profession.

I entered the university because my art skills landed me a scholarship, not because of academic prowess. During my years of Bachelor’s study, I awoke, late, to the world of ideas, and entered the ministry. That led me on to seminary where I earned the M.Div. and Ph.D. The life of the mind was what grew in me, and once my education was completed, I entered the teaching profession, twenty-eight years of full-time high school, along with thirty years of adjunct university.

Throughout those nearly forty years of post-high school odyssey, the river that carried me was a torrent of ideas gleaned from books, from art, from music, from travels, and from thoughts scribbled into journals (over 130 volumes now). That collection of ideas has become my toolbox, my coping mechanism for understanding and navigating life. This magnificent book that has so held me the past couple of days describes existentialism through the lens of biography. Because of my past dealings with Sartre, Heidegger, Jaspers and Merleau-Ponty, I’m reading the volume with elation, thankful for the tools given me in past educational settings.

I have felt the sentiments of those who view reading and thinking as a waste of time. I learned long ago that those practices matter very much to me, and they have been my sustenance. Maurice Merleau-Ponty put it this way: “Life becomes ideas, and the ideas return to life.”

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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2 Responses to “My Toolbox”

  1. Prime Time Says:

    Being true to yourself is the most important tool of all of them. Whoever your teachers have been, and most of us have many, you have learned well how to use it.

    Like

    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you so much for that. As I grow older, I realize more my debt to my teachers and regret that most of them have passed away. How I wish I would have told them what they mean to me. Especially now, knowing how I feel when someone from the past reaches out to me that way.

      Liked by 1 person

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