The Very Spring and Root

An engineer's adventures in education (and other musings).

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It’s Getting Better

My latest blog post for BTR has just posted. Excerpt:

The last three months have been a slow climb out of the depths of January. I’ve seen my own teaching and confidence improve, and I’ve taken heart at the day to day achievements of my fellow residents as well. Looking back, March was definitely much busier than October, which was in turn an order of magnitude crazier than the summer. Looking ahead, I can tell I am going to be even busier yet with my own classroom next year; each new level of immersion in the profession, art, and craft of teaching is going to bring new and greater challenge.

But here is the difference: I feel so much more prepared for it now.

A Psalm of Life

A Psalm of Life

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, – act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solenm main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I used to quote things like this all the time, and I think its been quite fashionable for progressive-minded people to do so for the last several decades, at least since the 60’s. What I see far less of these days is people actually doing something. Then I realized that I had been arm-chairing about nobody actually doing anything about anything for years without actually doing anything about anything. So then I decided to do something about something.

Counter-culture hipster attitudes and a veneer of non-conformity are everywhere, at least here in California. I see a lot of the other end of the spectrum too, religious conservatives who have somehow managed to interpret the New Testament to support the idea that repressive socioeconomic policies, massive corporate profits, rabid individualism, and resorting to force are ever good things. If there’s one thing humans are good at as a species, its reconciling the irreconcilable… keeping calm and carrying on.

The fact of the matter is that the world is broken. But the beauty is in the fighting of it. We can love truly when there are so many forces struggling to divide us. We can pursue a life dedicated to the betterment of one’s fellow human beings, even in the face of so many influences delighting when we look out only for number one. See, that is the bribe; the price of our silence and inaction is the hedonism of convenience, the drug of indifference, an opiate made of jaded apathy. Life is just so much easier that way. And they know it, and they make money off of it.

In fact, the world has been broken for millenia, and we certainly aren’t the first generation to find that out. What I think is different now is that we expect someone else to do something about it, or worse, convince ourselves that the world is not actually worth fixing.

I’m tired of it. I’ve traded in a comfortable secure income and almost everything I own for a proverbial lance and donkey. If you need me, I’ll be in the inner city, charging at windmills built of ignorance, neglect, suspicion, injustice, and an institutionalized hypocrisy armored with exceptionalist hubris.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

— Steve Jobs

Easy to blog about or tweet links. Now what are you doing about it? Saddle up.