Wednesday, February 16, 2011

“Man macht, Gott lacht”

Loosely translated, “people make plans and God laughs.”

Last time, I talked about two different worlds—those of school/professional and Peace Corps preparation.  Perhaps I may have given the impression that these could be neatly separated, in a sort of ordered alternation of roles.  Certainly, I thought so, at least for a brief period of time.  Wrong.

This past week has been a jumble of music theory and composition teaching, solo and orchestral keyboard performing, and continued slow absorption of the Armenian alphabet and beginning phrases [for example, I recognize the Armenian “t” because it looks like an upside-down tuba resting on its bell].

Therefore all is well—until reality rears its head, in the form of student choices ranging from mature and insightful to childish, desperately serious to virtually catastrophic.  This week, my focus has somewhat shifted  away from my usual pleas that individuals—and groups—respect their fellow students (and would-be members) as human beings.  Rather, I find myself shifting between two personas: one attempting to persuade bright students not to beat themselves up over specific imagined shortcomings, and another putting pressure on vaguely apologetic underachievers to produce up to their capabilities.  Add to the mix an unexpected post-midnight, return-to-the-university visit with a student whose suite-mate had just attempted suicide, and you begin to understand the futility of compartmentalizing different aspects of one’s life.

Yet, in following the Peace Corps’ “common wisdom” of enjoying and experiencing every familiar thing possible before shipping out, I realize that navigating this wonderfully discombobulated world of teacher/performer/advisor is precisely what I've been doing this past 40 years.  So why should I act so surprised that it’s simply accelerating in pace during these, my last three months at the university?

Somewhere in the ether, I think I hear the faint voice of my very old mentor, A. S. Neill (the late founder of England’s Summerhill School).  He seems to be laughing his head off...

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