Every man is a part of the continent, a piece of the main (wrote John Donne).
My obsession with houses sounds very tone-deaf, after recent events, both George Floyd’s death and the following protests. (This business of selling and buying a residence is a bit like pregnancy; after a certain point, you’re committed, and it gets to be hard to focus on anything else, the more so after labor pains actually start. The only way out is through).
I keep thinking of my students. In English, students skew female, but I’ve taught some African-American men who added so much to my classes, and who had gone through a lot to get there. One had bipolar disorder and a phenomenally creative mind; he wanted to write novels and screenplays, and to study English literature so as to learn his craft and help him create order in the stories that flooded his thoughts. Another was a programmer who wanted to use elements of the Mabinogion in a video game. One was a musician, so depressed and grief-stricken after his grandmother died that he couldn’t manage to do any work, but he was still a good kid.
I don’t know where any of them are now. LRU, even in these demographically challenged times, is a large regional university; it’s easy never to see a student around campus, and I often miss graduation because of the big medieval conference at Kalamazoo. I hope they’ve graduated or are on track to graduate, and make themselves and their families proud. I hope they find challenging and stimulating jobs, and do the creative work they feel called to do. I hope they have good lives.
I hope they have lives.
And if these men had not been talented and deserving students, if they had been clods? Let’s go back to John Donne: If clod be washed away by the sea, [America] is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls:
It tolls for thee.