Morning Coffee with Dave and the Journal

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Science is not enough, nor art;

In this work patience plays a part.

A quiet spirit plods and plods at length;

Nothing but time can give the brew its strength.

Goethe, Faust

Writing my memoir has forced me to spend more time thinking over my past, and currently I am working on the second installment from the Julia Cameron assignment (ages 6-10). That period, of course, comprises my sense of lostness during elementary school. Throughout those years, I never felt that I was on track as far as what was expected from good students. I was a daydreamer, and seemed to absorb very little from classroom instruction. I certainly did not feel that I was one of the “smart ones” and my grades certainly were nothing to admire.

Once I reached the university, I realized I was going to have to grow up and accept responsibility if I was to remain in school. I worked hard. Damned hard. And I felt that I was twelve years behind my colleagues. And forty years behind my professors. When I talked to trusted advisors about my deficiencies and my desire to acquire knowledge, they would smile smugly and simply say “It will come. Be patient.” It did.

Fifteen years later, in my first year of teaching high school, I read for the first time the poetry of Walt Whitman. These stanzas from “Song of the Open Road” went right to the core of things for me:

Here is the test of wisdom.

Wisdom is not finally tested in schools, 

Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it to another not

      having it,

.    .    .

Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,

They may prove well in lecture rooms, yet not prove at all under

           the spacious clouds and along the landscape and flowing

           currents.

I knew, as a rookie teacher, that I was no longer lacking in knowledge and wisdom when it came to instructing the youth. But what I had never realized before that day reading Whitman was this:  There is no royal road to wisdom.  We live in an age that demands shortcuts, that wants to know the bottom line now, right now. And the reality of life is that there are things, including wisdom, that require time, much time.

When I was a student in public school, the craze was speed-reading. Courses were offered in speed reading. I always thought that I was a slow reader. One day I realized that yes, I am a slow, deliberate reader. I am a plodder, not a quick thinker. Quality ideas, for me, require time.

This has been a good morning for me at the desk. Last night I took from my shelf a pair of journals from the year 2017, and perused them out of curiosity. I read with delight the pages of notes I recorded from my first reading of Goethe’s Faust. I close this blog with yet another of his sterling quotes that paints the picture of my experience when moments in the study are at their height:

When in our narrow den

The friendly lamp glows on the shelf,

Then light pervades our breast again

And fills the heart that knows itself.

Reason again begins \to speak,

Hope blooms again with ancient force,

One longs for life and one would seek

Its rivers and, alas, its source.

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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4 Responses to “Morning Coffee with Dave and the Journal”

  1. Dian Says:

    Love reading about your journey. When I was first assigned to teach AP English, I spent weeks preparing the syllabus. I studied and researched- but I was still intimidated at the thought of entering this first class. I had never taught the so-called intellectual cream-of-the crop students. On my first day, I mentioned something about not just writing but writing grammatically correct work. I mentioned I expected them to have sentence variety with a mix of compound and complex sentences. One of the students raised her hand and asked me what a compound sentence was! I let out a sigh of relief and I thought- “ I’ve got this!” I had “wisdom” – especially just the wisdom of age. I was never intimidated again. When I met that intellectually curious student who challenged me, I always felt that I had a lot to learn from them, also. (Not sure this makes sense).

    Like

    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you for posting this, Dian. Before teaching high school, I started doing adjunct contracts at local colleges. I still recall, with amusement, the stupid question I encountered on the very first day of my first class. It eased all my anxieties concerning whether or not I was sufficient for college instruction.

      Like

  2. ozarkmountainhiker Says:

    Appreciate your reflections. I thought my slow reading was an indication of lacking intelligence, but isn’t is a joy to read slowly and think deeply! Keep sharing in your blog. I’m enjoying the poets you quote and your comments.

    Like

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