“What’s been important in my understanding of myself and others is the fact that each one of us is so much more than any one thing. A sick child is much more than his or her sickness. A personal with a disability is much, much more than a handicap. A pediatrician is more than a medical doctor. You’re *much* more than your job description or your age or your income or your output.”
From Fred Rodgers, Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers: Things to Remember Along the Way
Behind the complicated details of the world stand the simplicities: God is good, the grown-up man or woman knows the answer to every question, there is such a thing as truth, and justice is as measured and faultless as a clock. Our heroes are simple: they are brave, they tell the truth, they are good swordsmen and they are never in the long run really defeated. That is why no later books satisfy us like those which were read to us in childhood—for those promised a world of great simplicity of which we knew the rules, but the later books are complicated and contradictory with experience; they are formed out of our own disappointing memories.
~Graham Green in The Ministry of Fear
A friend wrote this to me in an email several months ago. I’ve been thinking about it as I trying to suss out what a healthy work life looks like.
So ease up on yourself there, and expect much but season the expectations with a measure of patience and forgiveness, always doing what you can to move closer to the great teacher you aspire to be and on some days already are.
In the end, you feel that your much-vaunted, inexhaustible fantasy is growing tired, debilitated, exhausted, because you’re bound to grow out of your old ideals; they’re smashed to splinters and turn to dust, and if you have no other life, you have no choice but to keep rebuilding your dreams from the splinters and dust. But the heart longs for something different! And it is vain to dig in the ashes of your old fancies, trying to find even a tiny spark to fan into a new flame that will warm the chilled heart and bring back to life everything that can send the blood rushing wildly through the body, fill the eyes with tears–everything that can delude you so well!
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky in White Nights
Novels and stories are renderings of life; they can not only keep us company, but admonish us, point us in new directions, or give us the courage to stay a given course. They can offer us kinsmen, kinswomen, comrades, advisers- offer us other eyes through which we might see, other ears with which we might make soundings.
~Robert Coles in The Call of Stories
If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets, even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’
~Martin Luther King, Jr.
I discovered that I had to write to explore this set of convictions. I continue to do so. My writing is exploratory because I have no idea what I believe until I force myself to say it. For me, writing turns out to be my way of believing.
Writing is hard and difficult work because to write is to think…. Recognition of truthful speech begins when readers identify the words they encounter as an honest expression of life’s complexities.
-Stanley Hauerwas in Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir
I like to think, but I find writing incredibly difficult. But Stanley is right, writing, at least in earnest, forces thought. I find that sometimes as I’m teaching I’ll start thinking about how I’d narrate in writing what is going on in the classroom or the difficulty I’m trying to work through. I’m in the midst of writing for the Klingestein Summer Institute I’ll be attending starting next week. As I’m writing, I’m finding that the act of being forced to translate thoughts into words clarifies and organizes the thoughts in ways I might not have predicted.