Fall Musings and Other Non-essential Reading

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Not sure where this will end up, but here goes.

If you’ve ever had to endure a conversation with me, you are aware of a few things.  Number 1) My breath indicates my adoration of coffee, especially if it’s before ten.  2)  I have an annoying tendency to make light of just about everything.  3)  You are never quite sure if my words are genuine or sarcastic because I am incapable of exhibiting a change in tone.  4) I tend to begin lists that have no real direction.

In short, opposed to what my mother might say, I’m not perfect.  Nowadays, though, she’ll incorporate passive-aggressiveness (a Lively tradition since the mid-70s) and say things like “I had the best dream last night, Steven.”  Of course, I’m dying to know what Tom Selleck was wearing in this one, but she slams me with “You brought Katy and Whitman over and had shaved your beard.”

What can I say?  I’m the son of one clever lady.

I asked students last week to explain whether or not people in chosen professions (coaches, teachers, ministers, etc.) should be held to a higher moral standard.  I sifted through several responses and learned that younger people–predominantly my high school students–firmly believed that “everyone should be treated equally” while a majority of my college-level students believed those within leadership/representative roles take on an expected obligation to be role models and should be held to that higher standard.

While I did not take the time to calculate percentages, it was something like 53.294% felt everyone is the same while the other 46.706 believed the opposite.

What does this say about our country?

We’re pretty mixed on that one.

Were you hoping for some magical analysis?  Maybe YOU’RE the one whose mathematics are a little rusty.

Side note:  Whenever I call out a page number for the students to find, I tend to complete the prime factorization of that number aloud while I wait.  For example, today I called out “Page Five Eleven, ladies and gentlemen!” then subtly added “Seven times seventy-three for those of you playing at home.”

Anyway, I was reviewing some essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson (yes, THAT Ralph Waldo Emerson) to better prepare the students for their incredibly difficult quiz tomorrow.  [It’s actually NOT that bad for the students who read the passages, mind you.]  In the class textbook, there is a sample from Nature.  The section that they read touches on some of the main themes of the entire book.  Emerson believed that (in the early 1800s, gang) Americans were becoming too dependent on a rapidly changing world.  Industry and technology were advancing the nation, but the Romantics held firm that it could spell disaster for the SOUL.

I’ll pause so you can say “Ooooohhh….”

The Romantics were passionate artists.  They adored the little prizes that the earth provided for all of us:  observing a starry sky on a clear evening…taking in the landscape as a whole and dismissing the fact that the land is owned by someone, etc.  This is probably why we still have Pinterest material that encourages us to “Stop and Smell the Roses” or that to “Live, Laugh, and Love” is what we truly need.  Notice it doesn’t say “Live, Buy, Argue, Judge, Insult, Bully, and Demean.”

The other Emerson essay is from a piece called “Self-Reliance.”  As the title suggests, Emerson encourages the reader to seek out a life that one desires and not simply wait to be told or led around.  Of course, it may be our parental duty to expose the youth and guide them, but we cannot, for their sake, pull them by the snout throughout their lives.  True success in this life–I’m paraphrasing now–has nothing to do with one’s bank statement or corner office.  Shouldn’t we instill our children with more faith in humanity and not act on childish impulses to judge?  I’m pretty sure that if Jesus had a tattoo, it would have said “4Giveness iz Key.”

I distinctly remember sitting in my guidance counselor’s office when I was in high school.  He/she, while looking directly at my most recent transcripts, wanted me to rattle off some careers I’d considered.

“Teacher” prompted an eye roll.  Now, perhaps he/she was hoping I would say something like “Forensic scientist” or “Litigator” but I didn’t know what either of those two words meant when I was fifteen.  Then again, he/she might have been jaded by Education and stifled his/her empathy for yet another misguided youth.  In either case, I felt like I was letting him/her down.  But I showed him/her, didn’t I???

I have to mention one more piece before you go back to your other favorite thing to do.  The kids are assigned to read an excerpt from Henry David Thoreau’s (yes, THAT Henry David Thoreau) “Resistance to Civil Government.”  Thoreau was arrested for not paying a tax that he knew would fund a war he didn’t support.  While he only stayed in prison one night (and I believe a relative paid the tax for him), he was inspired to write a scathing essay on any government’s role toward its citizens.  Please don’t quit now.  This one’s good.  In short, he supported a citizen’s right to stand up for what he or she believed was morally right.  He urged readers to not sit back idly and allow the government to intervene at its will.

This is still going on today, folks.

While I may not have all the accurate data to show you [a great pie chart would be perfect here…ya know, because apple PIE is the all-American dietary choice], I can say-slash-type with the utmost conviction that about 4530% of what you do online is being viewed by Barack Obama right now.

Well, anyway, something like that.  So…here’s the point.  If you’re interested in reading about what some of these Romantic authors had to say about 200 years ago, please seek them out.  Chances are their work is accessible for little or no cost on your e-reader, phone, tablet, wrist-microchip, etc.

And help celebrate Banned Book Week (a week that ironically promotes the reading of books that have been banned in schools and libraries nationwide).

Hey, thanks for sticking around to this point.  It means a lot to me.

And Obama.

And the Romantics…maybe.

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