Saturday, October 3, 2009

The altar of the horseshoe crab

The annuals are flowering like there's no tomorrow, and for them, that's reason enough. I gathered up 8 or 10 small cherry tomatoes this morning. A small eggplant hangs from a plant still daring to flower.

The basil is still flowering. converting the sun's energy into nectar to attract the bees, which are still buzzing, who will use the sugar to produce honey to keep them alive for the few months around here when the sunlight weakens too much to support all the life of summer.

From The Lancet, (Britain's version of our New England Journal of Medicine):
If the pace of increase in life expectancy in developed countries over the past two centuries continues through the 21st century, most babies born since 2000 in France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the USA, Canada, Japan, and other countries with long life expectancies will celebrate their 100th birthdays.
Does that make you feel better? More relaxed?
Did you do anything today that makes living to 100 a bigger deal than living to, say, 50 years old?

I run a class website, but I keep it separate from here. The class site is for students and their parents, this one is for me and a handful of folks who share similar conversations. The last thing I need is a chat with an administrator who wonders why I implied that humans are doomed, that life is awesome whether (or the more likely not) humans choose to continue to be part of it, and that current economic practices have (in a biological sense, anyway) predictable consequences, consequences best not shared with children in a public setting.

I have a bad habit in the classroom. Anytime a students asks me "if I do such and such will I die?" my answer is always the same.

You will die.
But not today.
And not because of "such and such."

(Unless it is one of my wackadoodles wondering if it's OK to mix bleach and ammonia just to see what happens--do not do this.)

The altar of the horseshoe crab
Cape May, September 28, built and abandoned by an anonymous child

I find solace in that eggplant flowering as the days darken. I do what I can do, but I am not wrapped up in grief over a culture that cannot be sustained more than a few more generations if current practices continue.

I am not going to hammer the kids with images of what we have destroyed--I want them to see what we have.

If a child starts to recognize the beauty and structure of the flow of life, starts to recognize the mystery of what we do not (and cannot) know as truly a mystery that cannot be solved by a bigger shot of technology, starts to truly see how everything is held together by everything else, she will smile before she despairs.

And she just might figure out a few worthwhile things to do with the extra decade or two she gets in the bargain.

The child who built her altar above has a clue. I hope she still does by the time she finishes high school.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your post. May have to steal your response to the "Will I die?" question. I teach elementary students, and the more dangerous I pretend our science lessons are, the more they enjoy them. So the question comes up more than it probably should.

John Spencer said...

With regards to your "will I die" response, I have already stolen that line from you this year. Just thought I'd let you know. I said it aloud to a kid and I didn't even use your name in parenthesis.

betty said...

About twenty years ago a band teacher I know was fired for saying something like, "Life's a bitch and then you die." Parents were outraged. Your post reminded me of my friend. He was truly a wonderful teacher. Luckily, he went on to become a principal in a much smaller district.

doyle said...

Dear anonymous,

Thanks for the words--I might think twice, though, before throwing this at elementary school kids.

Dear John,

I'll get us both fired in no time.

Dear Betty,

I'm more of the "life's a beach" school. I don't mind outraged parents,so long as we can have a decent conversation. I gave up cynicism long ago.

It also helps that I teach biology, not band. Life and death go hand and hand.