Once upon a time…
Once upon a time, I was going to be a philosophy professor. This wasn’t just a wierd kid’s distant fantasy. I got half way through a master’s degree in philosophy.
I literally sat around and planned out my lectures in my head. I imagined how the impressionable freshman would idolize me. I’d treat the grad assistants like full-fledged colleauges. The other professors wouldn’t all agree with me, but they’d all respect where I was coming from.
I was a believer in serial monogamy. I looked at marriage as an entrampment. Kids were so not for me. Christianity was a crutch.
In this life I planned for myself, my friends from high school and college were a constant part of my life. They all had the courtesy to avoid such inconveniences as marriage so that we could all hang out together with out complications.
By the way, I was also going to be a famous writer. Of fiction. and poetry. And screenplays.
And did I mention political activism? Yeah, I was going to go hang out with the Sea Shephards. (Yes, they existed before that great discovery channel show. However, back then, they owned a Russian Destroyer and they sank whaling vessels instead of just throwing butter at them.) and Amnesty international. And at some point, maybe I’d be A Green Party Senator.
I’m only half kidding when I tell you I was going to be a philosopher-poet-serial monogamy-screenwriter-fiction writer-Green Party Senator-Activist.
It was a glamorous life I had planned for myself.
Have you ever seen The Secret of Nimh? I think that’s the movie with the bird character who can’t resist grabbing anything flashy. I was like that: this bird, who collected anything flashy.
How did all that turn out?
Well, let’s see:
I’m the father of three. I’ve been married for over twelve years. I’m committed to my marriage and love my wife and kids dearly. I’m a Special Education Teacher. I work with behaviorally troubled adolescents.
I work a couple nights a week at a book store to help make ends meet. I’m 37. Essentially unpublished. I hear from my old high school friends a couple times a year. I vote, generally pretty left. I live in New England.
On a good day there was no fights in my classroom and I wasn’t sworn at. On a good day all the kids are healthy so I’m not cleaning up anybody’s vommit. On a good day the dishes are all done. On a good day I find time to listen to NPR so I know what’s going on in the world. On a good day I might write a page or two on my blog, or work on a poem.
On a really good day I might make it to a poetry reading or get to spend some time with a good friend at Starbucks.
Glamorous? Not so much.
I’d be a liar if I said that this was always easy, even though it’s all about a third of my life ago. In truth, it’s been a bit of struggle with my birthday a couple weeks behind me and New Year’s a week ahead.
This morning I was idly glancing at the Christmas Tree. The story of my life could be told through the ornaments. From the clothespin angel I made in grade school to the hanging ceraminc mini-wreaths which double as picture frames for my amazing children; from the tree skirt with patches that were added each year with symbols of major events to the spongebobs, power rangers, and spidermen that my own kids have been involved in contributing.
And I begin to realize that glamorous isn’t such a big thing.
When I recognize that Jesus has this central role in my life that I have my health, food on the table, my safety, and my freedom, I begin to feel rather pathetic.
And then I recognize that a lot of what I’d wanted, I actually have a better version of it. Probably I’ll never stand before a Philosophy 101 class.
But I have the honor of standing before classes that need me a lot more than most college kids ever will.
Probably I’ll never deliver a lecture about whether or not essence precedes existence.
But I’ve had this incredible privilige of standing before my church, and sharing with them, truths so much more important.
I certainly won’t progress through a parade of mates.
But I’ll grow old with my my Mate.
I won’t get to travel the world with old high school friends.
But I’ll get to show the world to my amazing kids.
Have you ever seen Mr. Holland’s Opus? I feel like Mr. Holland sometimes. There is this arrogant side of me. I am not proud of it. It says I am supposed to be doing Great Things.
I know that what i am doing is great. Greater than a philosophy lecture. Greater than all that other stuff.
At the end of that movie, Mr. Holland got to hear his opus performed. It was, in some ways, more beautiful because it was played by amateurs he’d personally shaped. More beautiful, but not more glamorous.
In fantasy, glamor is the name reserved for the magic of fairies. The fairies, for example, are often rather homely. But they use glamour to make themselves appear quite beautiful.
There’s a deep wisdom in this: glamor is an illusion. It’s only skin deep. It doesn’t change the underlying truth of things.
It doesn’t mean it’s easy or fun. I’m working through this all right now. There are days and times I would gladly take the glamour. But wanting it doesn’t change the fact that I know what’s real.