Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Going Over the Banks in the Warm Days of Youth

"It's such a beautiful day Mr. XXXX. Can we skip one day and go outside to play frisbee?"
"Mumble, mumble, mumble, mumble."
"Oh, come on, Mr. XXXX. It's so nice out. Please.  Please."
"Mumble, mumble, mumble, mumble."
The young man's voice firm and sure of himself. The old teacher's voice low, hard to make out. This was the exchange I heard today at my desk on my planning period. I thought: "His voice is loud and sure because he knows he is in the right." And yet, I winked to myself, the teacher's reaction at the old foolishness that will surely never get its way. The young man, on the side of life, vitality, truth as it always will be, uncontainable and pure. The old teacher, on the side of the culture, postponed gratification, compromise and death. This is the dialectic that we face every day in the trenches in school, holding the line, especially in the warm days, against the knowledge that what we do is an artifice, an essay on the living in the world that men and women do. Young people, especially the ones about to break free, know what they know, that they are part of the great stream of life going over the banks into the greater world never to return again to the sheltered, stagnant pool of childhood.
And yet, I thought it wasn't so long ago that I swore eternal allegiance to the former view and war on the latter. Here is a quote from Birdman, my first novel. I only quote my own work because it is a shock to me and shows the divide that is a working hazard of the subterfuge that I call the writer's life:

"Kagan looked to the birds, perchers, songsters, blown by the wind and content to sit in the early and late days of the lingering sun, faith in perpetual sustenance, sharp-eyed observers of the moribund and settled; the snares and architecture of man-built cities only served their free purposes."

I like to think that there is a way to live in both worlds, functionally adult and responsible in my role as teacher, father, husband, and yet holding onto the knowledge and the certainty of youth that the sabbath is  for man and not the other way around.

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