April 2018

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Trepidation of the Spheres

In this morning's local newspaper, a story about Southern Sudan's succession vote ran alongside a story about tomorrow's likely Seattle snowstorm. Clearly, to understand the world in which I live, the story about Sudan was more important. I, however, read the snowstorm story.

This human tendency to focus on what's closest to us instead of focusing on the universe's grand events was the observation of poet John Donne in his "Valediction Forbidding Mourning." He wrote, "Moving of the earth brings harms and fears/ Men reckon what it did and meant./ But trepidation of the spheres / Though greater far, is innocent."

My brain tumors have of course been significant in my life, as they would be in anyone's. These tumors moved the earth of my life: I'm living this one life that I have differently than I would if I were tumor-free. I have a lot of doctors appointments, little energy, and fewer choices about how to live my life than I had before. These tumors are significant. No aw shucks about it.

But still, there are more significant issues than my brain tumors, and I want my life to be about those significant issues as well as being about these brain tumors. I want my life to be about the spheres' movements.

Years ago, when my student Chancey started to college, she told me with such excitement, "There are so many things a person could work on. I guess I just have to decide which one is mine." At the time, I was impressed by her attitude: where I felt overwhelmed by all that seemed wrong in the world, she felt excited by the possibility that she could make a difference somewhere. I remain inspired by that spirit.

The path I have chosen is through the various landscapes of American high school education. I get to work with and to learn from students and teachers from a wide range of backgrounds. I get to try to be not just a voice but a coach for them as they seek their own paths.

To me, what's more important: learning to live with my disabilities or increasing students' hopes that they have power in their own lives? That was a trick question, as I need each in order to achieve the other. As I gain the hope of dealing with my own limitations, I seek to help students and teachers articulate their dreams. I get to help them find a way to reach those dreams. The power of such hope inspires me to live a life fully, with my disabilities.

Survival just isn't the only point. Trepidation of the spheres: that's the point.


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