Things Grow in the Spring

April 30, 2007 psipsina

I was at St. John’s this weekend and found myself with most of a Friday with nothing really to do.

Well, there’s always stuff to do, but I had an entire afternoon with nothing scheduled (earworm:  that line from Morphine’s “Let’s Take a Trip Together” that goes “somewhere there’s no distractive/breeze of information/leaking through the windows/dripping from the trees/somewhere there’s no earthquakes/no other people’s anxious questions/no nervous wrecks/going down”).

So I sat in the Coffee Shop, in the room with the massive fireplace, with my psychology homework and a collected works of Carl Jung and studied a bit and read a bit of Jung and soaked up the Johnny air.  I overheard a paper conference, near the end of which the student, who must’ve been a freshman, burst into tears and wondered if, in spite of how much she loved St. John’s, it was really the right place for her.  (I had the same crisis at the beginning of my freshman year, as Eric well remembers, but I always was precocious.)  (Nina Haigney, the tutor, was magnificent.  I’m so glad that Chester Burke married her.)

I also overheard three or four juniors in the next room, the one with the blackboards, wrestling mightily with some of Maxwell’s equations.

As is always the case, I was overwhelmed with nostalgia and indulged in the fantasy of becoming a tutor myself.  But usually when I want to be a tutor, I think, “Wouldn’t it be great to have the chance to read the books again?  Wouldn’t it be great to be in seminar again?  Wouldn’t it be great to live the Great Conversation rather than settle for all the petty (from the French, petit, small) conversations I’m stuck with all day?”  This time what I was thinking was, “How grand it would be to have the opportunity to watch 18-year-olds struggle with Euclid!”  When I was 18, I was surrounded by 18-year-olds striving manfully with the angel, but I was too busy trying to keep my own hip in its socket to watch the others.  Heck, I didn’t even watch myself.  Were we powerful, graceful, clumsy, clueless, stupid, brilliant, pigheaded, tender, angry, joyous, arrogant, humble, amazing?

Probably.  But I would never know.  I was too busy to actually watch the magnificence of the dance we were attempting.  (And now I’m thinking of Kierkegaard, and the Knight of Faith, and the dancer who lands, more or less gracefully …)

My nostalgia is improving, I think, the way wine improves, with age and proper environment.

I told a tutor, one I did not have when I was a student but whom I’ve gotten to know since he frequently comes to Boston for alumni events, about this.  He said, “I’ve been teaching freshman a lot lately, and every fall I go home from the first day of class and tell my wife how cute they are.  But I know I’d have to commit suicide if they ever found out I said that.”  The Internets being what they are, I decline to identify this tutor by name. 

It’s not only green things that grow in the spring; I think our hearts and minds do, too.  What prompted me to write today’s entry was not the experience itself, but my reading of recent blog entries by my dear friends Eric and Liz.  These are all ostensibly unrelated to my blog, and yet when I read each, the first thing I could think of was how I admired that magnificence, the klutzy grace of three 20-year-olds who haven’t a clue what div and curl are but face it with good cheer.  And, I hope it’s not arrogant, but of how I admired myself, too, for having grown enough to recognize their sheer beauty.

I hope we were that beautiful, too.

Here’s Liz.

And here’s Eric.

They, too, are magnificent.

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Entry Filed under: coffee shop, education, friends, growth, jung, kierkegaard, love, magnificence, morphine, spring, st johns, Uncategorized, youth

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