The assignment was simple, but we were all much too nervous to appreciate that fact. The classroom was a buzz of talk throughout the hour and a half lesson as we discussed one theory after another, dissecting one paragraph after the next. The discussion was real and intense, ideas tossed back and forth, shouts of “I agree” and “No, I don’t think so” flying around the room as tongues loosened as we all bathed in the liquor that is shared knowledge and differed opinions.
It was an hour and a half that was free of the normal constraints of time and space. The very walls seemed to change dimensions as the air heated or cooled with the passion of the students, and the time zipped past in a fashion most unlike the normal “classroom time.” Shared craving of healthy discussion and conversation made us all comrades, part of an entity – until our opinions differed and we changed sides in an instant, becoming enemies in a war where the sides respect each other but are each completely adamant about triumphing.
We were working with our essays in front of us, and when my turn came to discuss my passages, I felt like the very air I was breathing was heady – I don’t do that normally, I don’t charge into an opinionated speech based on examples and analysis of a situation – but I did it then, my mind being freed from bonds of shyness or intimidation.
At the end of the lesson after I handed my paper to the professor, I lingered, as I do, to write down the assignments for next lesson in my weekly-planner and to pack up my bag just right. As I got up to leave, I found myself the last one in the room besides my professor, who casually turned to me as he packed up his own bag and said to me “That was very good.” I didn’t understand, so I said “What?” and he replied “That was a very good presentation.”
I stammered some sort of thanks and rushed out of the room. My first week of classes officially ended, and I did something right. Good start.
Ever since I read a silly little-girl book that had an explanation about who Emily Dickinson was, I’ve liked her. I only read a few of her poems back then, but I loved the idea of her. Not only was her name beautiful, but she had a certain strange charm about her – a recluse, misunderstood, hated having people look at her, wrote all the time… She was an appealing mystery.
When I went on my college-trip, I had the great pleasure of taking a class at Occidental College in Los Angeles. The class I chose was a class about Emily Dickinson’s poetry. The poem we studied was this, number 202:
“Faith” is a fine invention
For Gentlemen who see!
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency!
The amount of discussion and conversation that went into the quotation marks around the first word, faith, was astounding. We spent an hour, a whole hour, on the meanings that can be derived from that. Perhaps she meant faith as a concept, perhaps she meant to be ironic or sarcastic about the meaning of faith, perhaps she simply wanted to make sure it was clear she meant the word faith as its own thing. Emily Dickinson usually has underlined words in her poems, odd capitalisation in the middle of sentences, strange and mysterious punctuation – all these things are great for beginning discussions in class.
Ms. M gave me a complete set of Emily Dickinson’s poems as a gift after I raved about that class. Her poems are beautiful. I consider myself now a fan.
Isn’t willpower a strange thing? Sometimes just getting out of bed feels literally impossible. No matter how many times you tell yourself that on the count of ten you’ll get up, you still end up lying there for another minute, or two, or sixty. Then again, sometimes doing something like a physical workout takes no willpower at all and you just go and do it and deal with it and get it over with.
If only we knew how to turn our willpower on and off to suit our needs. If only we could keep our wills strong when we’re trying to outlast someone in an argument and stand up for ourselves. If only we could give up our stupid stuborn wills when we know we’re wrong about something.
Oh wait. We can. Willpowers ARE under our control in the end. Dang, there go all my excuses for doing/not doing things.
Sweat dripping down my brow and stinging my eyes, muscles cramping and aching, feet pumping along despite the myriad blisters – there is no feeling so satisfying: being in control of your body, utterly and totally, knowing it will obey you despite it’s pains, despite it’s aches.
Then again, there is also such wonder in letting go of such control. Giving yourself up to complete languor, as when falling asleep after a long and hard day. Knowing your body has reached its limit and surrendering yourself completely to a motionless rest. Letting your muscles and limbs twitch as they will, random currents running from your brain to every joint and fiber of your body.
It’s incredible to think what strange vessels our bodies are, capable of every sort of odd movement and feeling, all coming through these invisible, unconscious decisions and chemical reactions that we cannot ever feel.