Thursday, May 06, 2004
The Embarrassing Problem of Piles
In an age of candor, it's remarkably little talked about; and yet millions of people suffer from it. For some, the solution is simply to read until it goes away. But for many others it persists, a recrimination, an obscure judgment.
And indeed to be fair we (let me acknowledge my own implication in this) bring it on ourselves. To stare balefully at the problem as if it came out of nowhere, or out of the mind of some evil genius, is silly. We summoned it, and we must make it go away.
We said to fifty people Write a ten-page paper about a short story of your choice, due on the last day of class. Why should we now survey with dread the blindingly white result?
Every semester this return to snowy mountain is a little more daunting. Some of these are plagiarized, dammit... I should devote an entire class session to its/it's... If I read In today's fast-paced society one more time... Not another complaint that modernism is depressing! ... I said an essay, not a stream of consciousness autobiography...
And yet when you do finally overcome your paralysis, the papers often turn out to be rather interesting, and in some cases even moving. As you make your way through the pile, a benevolent, infinitely patient attitude overwhelms you, and you begin to remember that you are a teacher.