Yesterday, I spent precisely two hours and fifty minutes teaching; I dedicated about an hour or so to prepping my classes (I had done some prep the day before); and I spent five and a half hours doing stuff for the college. Some of that “stuff” I really enjoy, like planning the Speakers Series that my colleague and I created, but a lot of it – like dealing with our accreditation and navigating the politics and egos around that – I loathe. I simply think people should say what they mean and mean what they say and that there’s a great value to listening deeply and considering other people’s perspectives on things – but it seems to me, at least at my institution, that we are incapable of doing so. We seem to want to stake out our territory, pee around it, and then guard it ferociously with growls and grunts. A pack of hyenas come to mind . . .
That make seem harsh, and it probably is, but more and more I find myself wishing that I could simply teach. I love my students; I love talking with him, hearing about their days, and helping them become more of the people they were created to be. Yesterday, one of my students told me that her roller derby name (yes, she “plays” roller derby) is Jodi Wan Kenobi – isn’t that awesome? And some of my creative writing students talked about how they simply wanted to write, wanted to get more disciplined at it, wanted to access that part of themselves that is only activated when we sink deeply into something we do that’s creative. . . these moments are why I teach, not Board meetings or accreditations; I teach because I love students. So when people start getting petty and controlling, I find myself wondering how that helps us better serve our students . . . .
So this morning, as I was trying to stay in my writing practice and not fume over work (it didn’t really happen obviously), I decided to read something creative, and I grabbed Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk off the shelf. (By the way, if you haven’t read the title essay in this collection, stop whatever it is you’re doing and go get it.) The first essay in this collection is “Living Like Weasels,” a piece that is highly anthologized and very accessible, so I reread it this morning, and here’s the passage that struck me:
Could two live [Dillard and the weasel] that way? Could two live under the wild rose, and explore by the pond, so that the smooth mind of each is as everywhere present to the other, and as received and as unchallenged, as falling snow?
We could, you know. We can live any way we want. People take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience — even of silence — by choice. The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. This is yielding, not fighting. A weasel doesn’t “attack” anything; a weasel lives as he’s meant to, yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity.
As I finished this paragraph, I felt the knot in my stomach give, my breathing ease, and my balance return. To accept what comes and to stalk your calling . . . that’s it, right? That’s it.
So today, I challenge you – my friends – to stalk your calling, to live into who you are more fully. And to love life for all the glory and pain that it is. May you live like a weasel, at least for today.
“Weasel” by ed mcd