Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Happiness is not a warm gun

What do you want?
What do you need?

While ambling through the Bloomfield Green from school this fine afternoon, I saw a squirrel chase a starling, then again, and finally, a third time, pushing the bird to flight. It then went back to gnawing on the acorn it had dug up.

Makes no sense for squirrels to chase starlings. None.

We tend to take a mechanistic view of animals that don't share our roofs, but squirrels are mammals, and this one was, well, squirrelly. Most mammals are in May.


We keep talking about education as a commodity, as a way to preserve the economy, as a way to make America great again.

I'm selfish--I don't want to make America great, I just want to teach. I realized this almost 10 years ago, while I watched Manhattan burn, waiting for the wounded at Liberty Island who never came. Medicine matters, of course, and I was pretty good at it, but turns out putting things back together is not enough for me. Selfish.

I want to teach children how to think, how to know what they need, what they want. It's been my experience that most adults don't know either. Maybe I need to get out more.

I've met a few, though--happy scallopers, happy plumbers, happy doctors, happy writers, happy teachers, happy landscapers, happy waiters, happy just about anything you can name.

From my (very limited) experience, I'd dare hypothesize that happiness has little to do with one's particular job. Pretty much all jobs that matter can lead to happiness. A lot of jobs that don't matter don't preclude happiness--a job that does matter, though, certainly helps.

I love rattling on about DNA polymerase III or cytochromes or G protein-coupled receptors--this stuff is fascinating (to me, anyway)--but I have no illusions about this changing anyone's world view. (Understanding natural selection might mess you up (in a good way) but that's another story for another day....) My best teaching happens when I shut up long enough for my lambs to absorb something, anything, other than the drone of my voice.

If they could tap directly into my brain, here's what they'd hear: Hey, kids, this is your world, it's a fuckton more interesting than anything you can find on a screen, and, well, dig in.

And some do. Not enough, but it's a start.

A lot of noise about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. My students barely know who he is--they were in Kindergarten or preschool when he struck.

I saw first-hand the destruction he wrought. I sat in the same pew with someone who lost her brother. He was not an abstract evil--he hurt my people.

And I did not rejoice at his death. Because he chose not to matter to me. He affected me, true, and in terrible ways, but he did not matter.

I want every child I teach to matter, and to know what matters.

All these words because of a cranky squirrel.

Education is not about finding jobs or making money or bettering the economy. Education is about living a life worth living.

Hard not to be happy when you live that kind of life.

Arne and Eli and Bill and Melinda and Michelle do not strike me as happy people. Each one of them have real effects on my life. But they do not matter about things that do matter.

The sooner we internalize this, and act on this, the sooner we can get back to the business of living life. If you want to glorify evil, no need to look across an ocean.

My Dad kept a piece of a torn up automobile after the 1st WTC bombing--don't ask. It sat on his yard for years, and eventually disappeared.
Bloomfield just got granted a piece of twisted metal from the 2nd attack. We learned this a few days before OBL was killed. I don't want it anymore.

Yes, those are a couple of barnacles--just alien enough when I'm roiled as I am.
The WTC light memorial from "Life as a Human"--photographer not identified.
The barnacle pic was taken by us.

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