Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2001 08:22:10 -0400 (EDT)
Random Thought: It's Even More So Now Not About Things

As the clouds pulled apart, the trees and bushes seemed to swell as if they were drinking in the moonlight. The air has a refreshing autumnal coolness about it. The fishpond's quieting waterfalls had a assuring melody. The pond was its own repose. As I cooled off, I was both drawn into it and it poured into me. It was as if in the midst of all that had happened these past weeks, the fish in the darkened waters consoled me in a mysterious way, countering these sharp, seismic weeks with their smooth flowing motions. It was almost as if in some muted voice they bore witness to a continuing life as our lives shifted.

To Bear witness. What does that mean? It has something to do with awareness, information, conscience, conveyance. Of what? We curiously all have experienced a bearing witness to the toppling of two towering material hulks; we also all have experienced a bearing witness to the erection of a far more steelier, towering, and imposing spirit.

It's almost Yom Kipper, the Day of Atonement, a time that takes you to the place of refuge that heals your heart, mind, and spirit. And these days after a psychological whupping, what spirt doesn't need healing places, places safe and comforting, places where we can be united with ourselves, places affording solitary contemplation, and places where we know that it was all right to stop watching and reading and to take a breath, that to do so was not a withdrawal from reality, not a betrayal to those lost lives, not a weakening of commitment, not a waning of resolve, not a sanctioning of a crime.

You know, none of these places are loaded with "things." This morning it struck me that with all the heart-breaking profiles of the missing that are appearing in print and on the screne, with all those descriptions of lost ones pinned on New York boards and fences and lamp posts, I heard and saw a lot about who people were, and almost nothing of what they did.

So many things converging. Again, I thought of that professor professing the authority of all her wall hanging. All those "things," all those titles and degrees and awards from which so many of us academics draw our their identity, like money, are among the most misunderstood commodities in the academic world. They are so misunderstood that they border on being follies. We too often allow these placards to hide the human stories. Those hangings do not memorialize lives. All those letters in front and behind a name don't spell out true--and lasting--achievements, successes, or authority.

So many of us academics are so engrossed in doing things that have outer appearance that we forget that the inner value is what it's all about. We academics are so trained to be loyal to our discipline to the extent we far too often confuse it and the quest for its material accolades with our identities. "I am an historian" describes what we do, not who we are. "I am a professor" tells what we would do for a living. "I have tenure" does not proclaim how how we live or should live. And so, so many of us focus only on our discipline, and commensurately have little sense of beyond the information of our discipline and our academic position. We talk of dreams and reality, and sometimes I think we confuse the two. We confuse reputation, ambition, position, gain--sometimes driven by intellectual and social avarice and greed--with "riches." And so as we pursue promotion, tenure, awards, grants, we ought to go to a place that will tell us that none of those "things" will give us the experience of that rapture of being alive, of living the miracle of today to its fullest.

So, what is reality? Well, reality is that those "things" won't get you an extra day of life; they won't make you healthier; they won't guarantee happiness; they won't get you a true love; they won't ease nerves; they won't ease your pain; they won't relax your muscles; they won't straighten out your stroke or improve your serve; they won't instill courage; they won't strengthen; they won't establish caring relationships; they won't stop worry; they won't save you from sickness; they won't cure your sickness; they won't avoid divorce; they won't raise the children; they won't stop taking a drink or downing a pill or smoking a weed or sniffing; they won't make you less suspicious; they won't catch the "big one;" they won't sharpen your aim; they won't protect you in an accident; they won't prevent an accident; they won't make you honest; they won't make you more positive; they won't stop you from biting your nails; they won't eliminate childish ways; they won't cure your eating disorder; they won't win friends; they won't give you family; they won't endow you with wisdom; they won't generate love; they won't alleviate sadness and depression; the won't sharpen your vision; they won't avert danger; they won't give you common sense; they won't solve life's problems; they won't accept and overcome challenges; they won't make you flexible; they won't plow through barriers; they won't instill humility; they won't make you a safer driver; they won't stop foolishness; they won't give you peace of mind; they won't help face change; they won't help you listen to the rustling of leaves; they won't make you trusting; they won't make you less arrogant; they won't make you respectful; they won't make you tolerant; they won't put you at peace; they won't make you a loving spouse or significant other; they won't make you have fun; they won't let you play and laugh; they won't stop abuse; they won't make you sensitive to others; they won't generate respect; they won't make you compassionate; they won't make you passionate; they won't provide good judgement; they won't make you hopeful; they won't turn you into a believer; they won't make you like people; they won't make people like you; they won't foster creativity and imagination; they won't make you appreciate the sunrise or sunset; they are not the foundations of morality or ethics; they won't even make you like what you do; They sure don't make you superior. And, I'm not sure they even indicate that you are smart or educated.

No, those tappings on the wall don't put into focus what needs to be in focus.

And, in the end, we will be remembered as those lost on the fateful September 11th, by the impact we have on others, not by titles or salaries or degrees and awards.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
                          /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\
                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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