Art and Pronoun Usage
Last night, I finished my very first batch of ENG 101 papers for the semester; there will be many more. I can't explain why exactly, but when the last one was on it way, electronically, back to the student, I felt a sense of accomplishment that I haven't felt since, well, last year.
Teaching's immense rewards are immediate--a completed batch of papers, shining eyes, a sense of dedication that's palpable in the essays I read. Students learn; I win. It's as easy as that--and as good. Last night, I watched an episode of The Sopranos that I didn't think I'd earn the time to do. I finished up with those papers earlier than I'd anticipated and gave myself a reward. My wife made popcorn. "Let's celebrate," she said.
Either it's an odd world or we're just strange beings. I'd give anything to write more and teach less. Yet, inexplainably, teaching seems to offer these immense and immediate rewards. All summer long I write, and I'm a bear to live with. I worry about whether the ending of this last novel is right, worry myself sick, even though today the manuscript is on the desks of eleven editors right now. The books of meditations I've been working through look good, but I'm not sure anyone wants them--which is to say, wants me. Geesh. I hang my head. Writing--art--makes horrific demands on the psyche and the soul. But it's what I want to do, even more today than when I was thirty. As they say, "go figure."
Think of the nation of people who want to do art--busboy actors, taxi-driver dancers, thousands of pianists sitting next to single-fingered seven-year-olds, an sprawling army of teachers of every sort because "those who can't. . . Shoot, eighty per cent of the American public thinks they're going to write a book someday.
What is it that drives such lunacy? A desire to say something unique maybe, to do something utterly and wholly one's own, to make one's own statement, press an impression? In my case--chasing a dawn or finishing a novel and polishing a meditation or creating an essay out of nothing more than words--I think it's this ravenous desire to do nothing more than offer the world just a little more beauty.
Pavarotti died yesterday. We lost a voice. We lost a whale of a man with a tenor that soared to the heavens. We lost an inspiration. We lost some kind of beauty.
Enough tomfoolery. I've got an English class to prepare for--punctuation, mechanics, number and case of pronouns. It's got to be taught. Those who write clearly, think clearly. Writing is a skill you can take to the bank, honestly--far more than writing meditations or mid-list novels. I get paid good bucks to teach because the whole culture needs the instruction I'm about to engage in--"fourteen rules for comma usage."
But we need our Pavarattis too. We really do. We'll miss that voice. We'll miss that beauty.