Friday, May 08, 2015

What will I be if I didn't waste my time?

The doodling and time-wasting that I do now is not anything new; it is a continuation of how I was in graduate school, which itself was no different from my undergraduate days.  Of course, the four years of time-wasting in Coimbatore seemed like I had perfected the art of wasting time all through my growing up years in Neyveli.

Wasting time is all I have been doing all these years.  What a joyful life it has been!

Today, I doodled away making this:

Well, ok, I "wasted"--and continue to waste--time by reading anything that interested me, whether or not I really understood them!  In my graduate school years, I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I came across magazines that I never even knew existed.  From the New Yorker, the Economist, and the Atlantic, which I later started subscribing to, to a whole bunch of others that were my library staples, of which Public Interest,  Dissent  and Commentary were my special favorites.  I think I had built up within me images of old-time  intellectuals gathering at cafes and universities in New York and wished that I were there.  Especially the 1930s and 1940s environment that Irving Kristol experienced at the City University of New York:
 The center of the lunchroom, taking up most of the space, consisted of chest-high, wooden tables under a low, artificial ceiling. There, most of the students ate their lunches, standing up. (I looked upon this as being reasonable, since at Boys' High, in Brooklyn, we had had the same arrangement. To this day I find it as natural to eat a sandwich standing up as sitting down.) Around this central area there was a fairly wide and high-ceilinged aisle; and bordering the aisle, under large windows with small panes of glass that kept out as much light as they let in, were the alcoves-semicircular (or were they rectangular?), each with a bench fitted along the wall and a low, long refectory table in the middle. The first alcove on the right, as you entered the lunchroom, was Alcove No.1, and this soon became most of what City College meant to me. It was there one ate lunch, played Ping-Pong (sometimes with a net, sometimes without, passed the time of day between and after classes, argued incessantly, and generally devoted oneself to solving the ultimate problems of the human race. The penultimate problems we figured could be left for our declining years, after we had graduated.
Now, it is a different world--not only at CUNY, but everywhere.  And I, for one, don't even have to head to the library to read magazines.  From the comfort of my home, I read this essay in Commentary and thanked my years of doodling away in the libraries at USC!  Joseph Epstein, who is now 78, writes about how the parent-child relationship has changed over the decades:
My father and I did not hug, we did not kiss, we did not say “I love you” to each other. This may seem strangely distant, even cold to a generation of huggers, sharers, and deep-dish carers. No deprivation was entailed here, please believe me. We didn’t have to do any of these things, my father and I. The fact was, I loved my father, and I knew he loved me.
I can relate to that.  It is almost like he is describing my childhood.

Epstein makes a good point when he writes about why things have changed from that old-school:
I have a suspicion that this cultural change began with the entrée into the language of the word parenting. I don’t know the exact year that the word parenting came into vogue, but my guess is that it arrived around the same time as the new full-court press, boots-on-the-ground-with-heavy-air-support notion of being a parent. To be a parent is a role; parenting implies a job.
So, what does that mean?
Under the regime of parenting, raising children became a top priority, an occupation before which all else must yield. The status of children inflated greatly.
I used to joke with the daughter that I couldn't wait for her to become an adult because I could then "snip, snip" those apron strings.  She knew I meant it, and she also knew that she would not let that happen--we live in a world that is far removed from those 1930s and 1940s.  I am an old soul trapped in a much younger body!
One can no longer be merely a parent; one must be—up and at ’em— relentlessly parenting.
A joy it is to read such essays, where the sentences and paragraphs seem so elegantly put together, and to convey simple but profound thoughts.  To think that I would not have known about such pleasures in life if I hadn't doodled away my time back then and now!

Oh, btw, this post itself was interrupted by a call from the daughter; I am, after all, a father in these parenting times! ;)


Ramesh said...

Tell me about doodling and wasting time. Its my occupation now :) Except that I don;t waste time eating broccoli :):)

And reading too. Oh yes. In the good old days, we never had a chance to read about the Memphis Grizzlies or the GS Warriors. Now I can spend my time reading about them. Parenting can wait. The NBA playoffs beckon !!!!

Sriram Khé said...

Looks like you need a vacation from this very tiring full-time job that you have. At least, move from chair to chair when you watch the ballgames! ;)

Anne in Salem said...

Really - wasting your time? Your meal looks delicious and definitely not a waste of time. Try grilling the tomatoes a bit - extra flavor.

How can such rewarding reading be wasting your time? NBA playoffs are definitely a waste of time.

Perhaps the parenting pendulum will swing back and stay somewhere between Epstein's upbringing and the smothering of today, combining the best and jettisoning the worst of both.

May you continue to waste time and thereby entertain and educate us for many years.

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