This semester I've spent a lot of time on the third floor of Carrier Library on JMU's main campus. There's an entire wall of windows that look out on the strange, rotund building known as D-Hall and a common area with benches and plenty of smoking spots. As I've graded or tapped on this laptop, I've watched students walk back and forth, and I've wondered where they are headed--in the literal sense and otherwise.
Like probably every teacher ever, I search for a duplicate of myself at that stage in my life. I try to remember that feeling I'll never return to and treat my students the way they need to be treated. Not to mollycoddle them, but to attempt to understand where they are at in the world. Not that this will protect them from the reality of the world. Two of my students will have to leave our program for various reasons, and it's been interesting (in a sad way) to see how they've dealt with this failure. One has accepted responsibility--the other not so much. I feel that the former will learn from this failure. Gain wisdom from suffering.
Tom has introduced a book to me: A Year to Live: How to Live this Year as if it were Your Last, by Stephen Levine. I have yet to crack it open, but I've looked up quotes from the text. One of many struck me:
“There is nothing noble about suffering except the love and forgiveness with which we meet it. Many believe that if they are suffering they are closer to God, but I have met very few who could keep their heart open to their suffering enough for that to be true.”
If you haven't noticed from my previous posts, this rings true to my experience. I've had to deal with a lot of things--tough things--but it doesn't necessarily make me any holier. Perhaps it makes me more responsible, since I've had a "threshold of revelation," to quote Angels in America. My student that has accepted failure can now actively choose what to do with it. I need to take what I've learned with love and forgiveness. I need to keep my heart open, rather than sit in my castle of superiority.
Not that this forgiveness and love should be considered equal to the "forgive and forget" model. I have realized over the past few months that certain relationships will never be what I want them to be, and I have to adjust myself accordingly, or I'll constantly be in a state of unrest. A state of "if only X happens, the relationship will become what I need." I can forgive, but I can't--shouldn't--forget. If I forget about what I did or what was done to me, I can't truly move on. I'd be constantly stuck in that one moment of mistake. That one day in the movie Groundhog Day.
I don't necessarily need to love this threshold of revelation. A threshold is just that. Not a path.