May 6, 2007

the life that once I led

Out of boredom I googled my name to see what would come up. After scrolling through numerous references to Natalie's wearing or selling or depicted on various short sleeved shirts I came across a University of Tennessee page from the English Department. I was listed on there for some incoming graduate student fellowship, but I got to looking at all the names and the lists of their various attainments. Many of these people I had been to class with or had worked with in the writing center. It just sort of got me to thinking about my walks to school, our little apartment, the campus, and all those other bits that made up my life just a few short months ago. I don't really miss it. It was very hard work for very little reward and for the most part I was simply too exhausted and uninspired to give it a real go. Looking at the list of articles and conference papers, and other major projects from my old grad school I found nary a thing that interested me. It rather sad really. I who love literature so much could find nothing of interest among the scholars of tomorrow. Perhaps I'm not really a scholar after all, or what's far more likely is that I'm not the kind of scholar people really want. I don't just read Beowulf -I embrace it. The odd turns of phrase and unique pacing, the sense of a world emerging out of the age of Oden and into the age of Christ, cold beauty of the epic. All these things entrance me. As Donne said, "Hold your tongue, and let me love." I love books, and I love to write. For some people that follows easily into loving to write about books. Yet it needs to be something worth writing. Most of what I see being written isn't worth the ink. But even if it was I'm not sure that I'd be the one best suited to write it. I think I'd much rather teach Beowulf and Blake to those too young to be bored by it than to try and write five thousand words proving a minor point about Eliot. Besides, I'm far too ignorant to deal with these subjects at present. Let me read Dante and Spencer and Milton and Pope and Swift and then perhaps I shall be prepared to say something. As of now I know only the merest bit of literature. You might think I'm being modest, but actually it's quite the opposite. Only a fool thinks a degree in English means you know literature. I got through the whole of my bachelor's degree without reading more than a couple hundred lines of any of the above authors. No, I'm no scholar, but I'd like to be. That's why I went to grad school. I found instead a bunch of cheap ideologies running around dressed up in the stolen robes of truth while truth sat embarrassed and ashamed outside the gates. However, there were a few there for whom I believe the light of Christian scholarship still glows. I once saw that light myself and thought it my duty to seek it in the halls of academia. Yet I am made of different stuff than they, and my road turned aside. So I look at the row of books lining the top of my bookshelf -anthologies, cheap college edition, novels, poems, and plays of all descriptions. The bright light of learning still draws me. But now it draws me for other reasons. It draws me because of my children and what they must learn. It draws me because books, and stories, and ideas are the glowing hearth of Christendom. What is the Bible if not a true book of true stories whose ideas have kindled entire cultures?

4 comments:

Loren said...

"Yet it needs to be something worth writing. Most of what I see being written isn't worth the ink."

Amen to that! Good post. :)

Sallie said...

I love books and reading.. I have shelves full of old books that we are collecting so that one day "when we grow up" we can have a library.. I REALLY hope that day comes sooner than later :-)

Natalie said...

I know what you mean, Sallie. One of my dreams is to have a real library crammed full of books. Don't know if that will ever happen, but I confess that half of my furniture questions involve planning how I can store books in, under, or on it.

Janel said...

Having a library crammed full of old books is one of the most wonderful blessings on Earth...

Excellent thoughts!