Saturday, March 21, 2015

So it is spring ...

When a term ends, students perhaps forget their remarks in the classrooms and move on.  Perhaps they forget them even before the term ends.  Perhaps most faculty forget the remarks.  But, I don't! ;)

About the middle of the term it was when a student asked me something like this: "you seem to believe that there are different narratives out there and are always questioning us.  Then, how do you know which one is the correct narrative?  Does it mean you have to seek out different ones all the time?"

A wonderful question, right?  I could have ended the term right then and there.  Mission accomplished--for real!

There is no way but to seek out the different takes.  That's what education is about. That's what an examined life is all about.  Well, as long as we keep this out of the radar forever. ;)

Consider the vernal equinox and the spring time.  The usual narrative is of spring being life appearing again after the long winter. Green shoots.  Daffodils and tulips.  Lambs and rabbits representing fertility and continuation of life.

That is one narrative.

And then there are others.  Like the poem "Spring" by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

Isn't that a narrative that is completely different from the typical gushing about "ah, spring!"?

"I know what I know | Life in itself is nothing."  Spring, in this narrative, forces us to question our very existence.  What is the point?  "To what purpose, April, do you return again?"

We wake up. We eat, drink, work, fight, chat, tweet, travel, pee, ... a full day of inane activities.
We then go to sleep.
And we then wake up. We eat, drink, work, fight, ..... only to die and become "the brains of men
Eaten by maggots"?
To what purpose does a new day return again?

Find your own narrative that provides you with an answer that convinces you.  But, keep in mind that there are other narratives too.


Ramesh said...

Yup; there are different narratives, but that doesn't mean I can't argue against every other narrative other than the one I fancy :)

Like, that poem you have quoted by the lady - unadulterated garbage. She has the right to her narrative and I have the right to call it what it is !!

By the way, you should not keep "this" out and examine that narrative too. One thing can be said in its favour. Its a lot better than that poem ...

Sriram Khé said...

Hmmmm ... you are being uber-flippant when you dissed Edna St. Vincent Millay by casually referring to her as "the lady" and her poem as "unadulterated garbage." I will leave it at that.

Anne in Salem said...

Ask a CPA, and he might say April is about taxes as his answer to Millay's question about another April.

Millay's poem is depressing. She must have had a rather bleak outlook on life. I definitely choose not to follow her narrative.

Everyone's narrative will be different because everyone is here for a different purpose and everyone experiences life and views life differently. A farmer may view spring as the beginning, though he has been preparing all winter. A basketball player will view spring as the end (except the pros, who drag the season interminably). A senior in high school or college will view spring as a beginning and an end. All different, all valid. Yes, find - better yet create - your own.

Sriram Khé said...

All different takes, yes.
In fact, one of the toughest things for me in education is to get to that bottom line that I want students to understand: "create" your own narrative that comes from a broader understanding of quite a few different narratives. But, students often tell me variations of "tell me what you want me to do in this assignment" because they are so much used to teachers telling them about "the" narrative ...

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