Monday, March 23, 2009

Πάντα ῥεῖ

Clouds over Marin, April 2005

All my personal e-mails end with a quote from Abba Poemen, one of the desert fathers:
Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.
This is often a useful guide in making decisions about how one spends one's time and one's life.

Last summer and fall I was eager to get back to Russian classes. Then this spring came and Russian 2 was not offered, so I wound up in conversational Russian. Way beyond where we had gotten at the end of Russian 1.

Now, I am capable of learning Russian on my own with class to guide me and I could have stayed up with the conversational class. If I studied. But I have not been studying Russian. And if you don't do any homework, any drills, any reading, you cannot retain what flies by in class. And I understood no more than 40% of what went in on in class. I think I can say I remember one word I learned in class all semester. One. The rest all blurs together.

So, I could keep up if I studied, but I have not been studying.

My heart is elsewhere.

Right now my heart is in writing fiction. I can work on that almost every day with pleasure. I don't seem to put in even 30 minutes a week on Russian.

I have been wondering for almost two months why I was banging my head against a Russian wall. So today I showed up just to say Thank you and good-bye. I dropped out.

I can do Russian again, when I am up for it. Right now, I am not up for it. I can also do it when I can work my way up through more grammar before launching into conversation where I simply do not know the vocabulary, the syntax, or the word endings.

My ex observed, rightly, that this has given me an opportunity to understand how most folks feel when they take a foreign language and struggle but are lost. So it may have been good for my soul.

This is not the first thing I have dropped out of in my life (two doctoral programs, for instance). I have not regretted either of those, though there was a cost and a loss involved.

Tonight I can return to my fictional world and spin out plot lines and my heart is happier. Much happier.

--the BB

The header is an aphorism of Simplicius that summarizes the philosophy of Heraclitus ("all things flow" or "all things are in flux").

"Ποταμοῖς τοῖς αὐτοῖς ἐμβαίνομέν τε καὶ οὐκ ἐμβαίνομεν, εἶμέν τε καὶ οὐκ εἶμεν."
"We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not."


David said...

what a courageous decision
i might also suggest it is only a sign of the active engagement of the Holy Spirit in your life- that what you 'thought' was to be done ended hollow in your heart and hands in order that the deeper truth of your being might break forth- you ARE a writer, dear Paul- many times over, and in several wonderful forms- so stop fighting it! LOL

one bone to pick however
you wrote 'This is not the first thing I have dropped out of in my life (two doctoral programs, for instance). I have not regretted either of those, though there was a cost and a loss involved'

but the two of us know the futility of dualistic thinking, so you didn't 'drop out' so much as Life took you in another direction, and you were courageous enough to follow the prompt.

as to cost and loss- well I'll let you rework that one nondualisticly yourself



Paul said...

Ah, since yes and no are like yin and yang - complements - when we say yes to one thing we say not to another, and vice versa. True, my life went in different directions. Dropping out of the doctorate in church history was active and deliberate; dropping out on the doctor of ministry was passive and more just the consequence of other huge decisions (moving to New Mexico and giving myself a fresh start and freedom to break out of old patterns).

I may be wrong, but the fiction I write is definitely the fruit of and substitute for the doctoral dissertations not written in the other fields; and, I believe, quite likely my life's great work. This is part of why there are no regrets.