Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Long Loneliness (51-67)

Hamlet, when asked by Polonious what he is reading, says "words." In his rogue and peasant monologue, he berates himself for only being able to respond to circumstances with words.

The pen is mightier than the sword, perhaps, but those who weild it often report of the impotence of words and the ways in which their use often fill our days in ways which make it appear we are doing more than we are.

Day writes of her early days as a journalist:
Life on a newspaper, whether radical or conservative, makes one lose all sense of perspective at the time. You are carried along in a world of events, writing, reporting, with no time at all for thought or reflection--one day listening to Trotsky, and the next day interviwing Mrs. Vincent Astor's butler; writing articles about the Navy Department's charges against Charles Schwab and other munitions makers, then stories about child labor in rural regions and in the laundries (one fourteen-year-old boy working ninety hours weekly). (65)
I suppose the key phrase here is "no time at all for thought or reflection" and that it is indciative of the way any task can fill our lives with activity--not just those that involve the production of words and yes, I'm thinking of teaching. The lack of reflective space within education is not new, but I wonder if it is increasing. I think back on my own undergraduate experience, and I wonder when I ever THOUGHT. Taking five classes a semeser, at times my recollection of it is one of accumulating information. But whether you are accumulating information to desseminate it (as a teacher or reporter) or report it back on a test--you are rarely trying to understand it, much less let it have a meaning in your life (at least to the extent that it affects your actions.

James compares the man who doubts to one buffetted about on the waves. Perhaps that is an apt metaphor for the one who is busy, too.

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