which I found myself writing late morning yesterday, sitting in my local Starbucks, when perhaps I should have been doing other things.
I claim no great insight for the words in it, which appear below the fold.
At least part of it reminds me that despite the occasional difficulties of stretching our pay to the end of the month, especially with the nearly 10,000 pay cut I have received from my school system this year (and the prospects of the current low levels or worse continuing for another year or two) I am actually quite rich.
I invite you to what was a Saturday morning meditation.
A five-day break from teaching seems almost too long, even though I certainly needed both the rest and the opportunity to catch up on things – household task, reading and correspondence not related to either work or politics, the latter a category that includes my writing on educational policy. I dislike being away from my students, because every moment seems so important.
I realize, however, that I need time for myself apart from being teacher and political activist and writer.
I need time to step back, consider the blessings I have and simply enjoy them.
I need the opportunity to simply sit and let the world go by, whether truly listening to a piece of music, or doing as do now while writing this – watching the people go by both within the Starbucks in which I sit or along the sidewalk in front, heading to other stores in this shopping area.
I can look across the street and see several dozen birds on a wire on the crisp, cold, sunny morning.
I can hear fragments of the conversations around me – parents and children, spouses, acquaintances.
The very large coffee I purchased just of 2 hours ago is now almost gone, and now also fairly cold, sitting on the shelf in from of the window so that I do not accidentally knock its contents onto my keyboard.
I can get it refilled with warm coffee for a nominal amount. I have sufficient work with me to justify remaining here, where I can spread out without one of our five friendly felines taking that as an invitation to curl up – on my keyboard, my lap, or my papers.
Or perhaps at some approaching moment I will simply shut down my computer and go for a walk, with no direction or purpose other than simply to walk and experience.
Or simply to think. The old question, often thrown at those of us who teach, comes to mind:
If you’re so smart, how come you’re not rich?
One might be tempted to say that there are things other than material wealth that matter.
Which of course is true. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?” is one expression that comes to mind.
But as Jeffrey Feldman or George Lakoff might put it, that is responding within a frame set up to diminish the value of my response.
I AM rich. I have so many riches I cannot count them. First and foremost is the unrestricted love of my best friend, my wife, my partner for eternity. We both learn about unrestricted love from the various four footed creatures who have graced our lives.
I have memories so long as I have my mind. At times I can smell the wood fires of my trips to the monasteries of Mount Athos, for example. Even in absolute silence I can hear music that I love – individuals songs, or complete symphonies.
I have a life enriched by books, thousands of them. Some I reread from time to time. Others invite me, awaiting when I will finally give them the attention they so deserve.
I have freedom of expression – political, moral, religious, social. That by itself is more riches than most of the people alive today, or who have ever lived.
I can remember the tastes of food I have not had for months. I can easily prepare or obtain meals that will reinforce those tastes.
As my fingers move across the keyboard, I can remember other things I have done with these ten digits, and the hands from which they spring. I can feel the notes of Bach and others, both on the ivory of a piano keyboard or the strings of a cello. I can remember how moving fingers allowed me to caress, or intertwine my fingers with those of another. These fingers have been wrapped around pencils and pens as I wrote in the notebooks that were such a part of my life before i ever got a computer. They have held the knives and spoons and pots and pans with which I have fed myself and others.
I own more than I owe. In that I may be richer than was Thomas Jefferson, even though i have tendencies which can similar push me into indebtedness, starting with our mutual love of books.
Every school day I spend hours in rooms with another set of riches – the young people with whom I am so privileged to interact, learning together with them, starting to experience things anew through their eyes and lives, and knowing that some part of me will still exist in them even after I have passed from the scene.
I cannot recount all my riches.
I don’t need. to. I do not need to justify my choice to teach to someone else. I don’t believe that he who dies with the most toys win. I am not interested in trading my life for that of a “master of the universe” operating a hedge fund or dealing with mergers and acquisitions.
What good are any kind of riches if we do not take them time to enjoy them?
I can never fully exhaust what I already have.
Each day brings me more riches – of experience, of memories, of new people, of opportunity to learn.
So I think I will now go further enrich myself, simply by living my own life, and not worrying about comparison myself to others.
How about you?