Saturday, November 14, 2009

A week’s worth of life

I looked through my calendar, and ransacked my memory, with a single question in mind – was it worth it? Which portion of the week did I spend doing something good, which portion did I enjoy, and which was wasted or drudgery? Ah, I wish there was a calculus of life, and the minutes and hours were easy to separate into the good and bad baskets.

For example, on Monday, I spent an hour training Early Childhood students how to pass the PLACE test. Was it good? I enjoyed helping these students very much, because this is something they need, and I was actually able to help a little. But then, the test itself seems to be ill-conceived, and hardly meaningful. So, in the grander scheme of things, both the students, and I probably wasted our time. But then again, is watching a movie, or hiking a waste of one's life? If you go so far as to say something like that, what is life itself, if not enjoyable waste of time?

Then there are completely wasteful activities, which irritate us all, for they are neither enjoyable nor useful to anyone in particular. For example, we submitted all required paperwork for our new position in Colorado Springs, but someone from a higher office wanted me to submit the organizational chart of our School, with all the position numbers listed. Not just a list of faculty – they have that – no, an organization chart. As a result, I have to spend maybe another hour or two fishing for this information, playing with graphics, etc. – all of this, I am pretty sure, for no particular reason, just because someone has the power to require me to do so. But then again, maybe that person had a good reason to ask, and I just fail to imagine the reason? It's like that every time. We never know fully the value or significance of our actions, although we can certainly guess. But this impossibility of full knowledge is both frustrating, and what makes life so delicious.

It is about to snow. Svetlana and I have bought some food, some plum wine, and are going to hunker down, and survive the winter. She's buying some cookies, and I sit in the car and watch snowflakes fall down from the sky.

Snow falls, snow falls;
To the white stars in a blizzard
The geranium flowers reach
Beyond the window sash.

Snow falls, and all's in tumult
All around, the world takes flight:
The back door's unstable staircase
And a crossroads in the night.

Snow falls, snow falls,
as though it's not flakes
but in a patched coat
the sky descends to earth.

As though it is like a fool
From the uppermost landing
Stealthily, playing hide and seek,
The sky descends from the attic.

Because life does not wait,
Before you know it, it's Yuletide.
But a short span,
And look, there's the new year.

Snow falls, extremely thick    
And in synch, with the same steps,
In that tempo, with that sloth*
Or with that same quickness,
Time passes, perhaps?

Perhaps, year after year,
People follow how snow falls
Or like words in a poem,
Perhaps time passes...

Snow falls, snow falls,
Snow falls, and all is tumult:
A whitened pedestrian,
Surprised plants,
The turn of an intersection...

Boris Pasternak, 1957, not sure whose translation

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