I could give you a veritable litany of excuses, but I fear none shall suffice for my failure to write. I just – haven’t felt it, ya know? And I ain’t about forcing shit down peoples’ throats if it ain’t something worth writing. Damndest thing, I know, but my Bukowski has made his impact upon me.
On the obverse, however, I did write a slew of things in class on Friday. If the Army taught me anything it was to suffer alongside your troops.
Context: I make the little fuckers write all the time. Writing is expression; it allows one to understand themselves. I’ve been harassing my charges for months now on their AP writing, and over the course of the previous week, I had them study philosophy and ethics (gentlemen, you’ll thank me after you successfully use pathos, logos, and ethos on that date). I’ve been reading Meditations by the Emperor – the Marcus Aurelius – and I was gobsmacked by a question he posited:
What am I doing with my Soul?
I lay awake in bed mulling the question over before I decided that this – this – would be the essay topic for the week. I had my charges write a response to the Emperor’s question whilst I penned my own, one for each period, before transcribing them below.
For my charges who wished for a Free Write, well, here ya go:
I’ve got them writing a response to the Emperor’s insight: what am I doing with my Soul? Some of them are absolutely crestfallen – what sort of essay prompt is this? What madman would loose this barbed question into a horde of children who’ve yet to come to terms with Self? Ah, that scratch of pen upon page – a dozen times over – is juxtaposed against the heavy sighs of introspective anguish as my charges take to battle or flee the field. It is not with malice I posed this very question, but rather to encourage self-reflection in this generation so obsessed with self-image. How to make them understand that Life outside these walls, the Life beyond the glass screen, is far more rewarding and fulfilling than anything encountered herein. The Emperor penned this thought near two millennium ago; what progress has Man made in achieving understanding? So much discord, so much violence, so many led astray through false prophets and mistaken omens. Ours is to reason, and with reason comes understanding, and with understanding comes Life. Not all who grace the earth are alive; puppets of meat and bone who breathe, eat, shit, work, and fuck. Yet they do not wonder aloud nor in silence – they simply are. But this – this gets the young to think. Engage. To question themselves and the world around them in order to better understand the Self. What are you doing with your soul, my dear Goombas? No doubt slapping ink about the page or staring absently at the wall as the Baroque masters play from the tin speakers – both are steps on this path toward understanding the Self. One is a pace full of vigor and vitality; the other is a slovenly gait, timid and impotent, afraid of what lies beyond the cavern walls. And yet the question remains: what am I doing with my Soul? It won’t be fully answered here in this simple class period nor satisfied upon a single sheet of notebook paper – how simple Life would be! But, again, ours is to reason, to know that we either abide and embrace our nature or get swept away into nothingness by it. It isn’t enough to merely parrot our parents or recite from memory what our instructors have espoused: that is the duty for the automaton. No, for by writing these thoughts (the sounds of papers being turned over to write on the backside!) we have made progress. Some, certainly, more than others for each of us is different in our skills and abilities, especially when concerning looking inside the Self. Some of my charges will ultimately fail this prompt; not for what they have written, but for what they have failed to write. It’s there – the Self – and yet so many refuse to see. The chains of bondage – self-imposed and self-restrained – will keep many in the proverbial Darkness for their entire lives. They won’t ever taste the sweet ambrosia or refreshing nectar of Life if they choose to remain in chains of their own making. This exercise, then, serves as the appetizer toward understanding, toward thinking and feeling and being. The very pathos, logos, and ethos espoused in class time and again becomes viable – tangible – on a hundred pages as they attempt to grapple with themselves. Ah, the very notion is fearful, especially to this captive audience, for the safety of school is about to be consumed by the obligations of Life outside these walls. The world is a paradox: neither Good nor Evil, fair nor rigged, safe nor dangerous. But being able to understand one’s Self – to see one’s soul and remark upon its abstract beauty – is the first step toward living a Good Life. This exercise is just that: a single step. And my purpose, as it was and as it shall be, is to goad them toward understanding. What am I doing with my Soul? Exactly what I am supposed to do.
* * *
I’ll stop here for now, comrades, for I have plenty of more material to type up. A few more classes answering the Emperor will do that.
8 thoughts on “What am I doing with my Soul? Part I”
Bruno, I saw this poem and thought of you. https://taylormali.com/poems/what-teachers-make/
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That’s a mighty fine poem – I’mma hold on to that one. Thanks for sharing – and reading!
Ah, quintessential Bruno! I’ll forward to Kent the philopsophy professor.
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Oh boy. Now that’s putting me under the gun… Thanks for reading! Been a spell but I’m happy to have shared.
Maybe you could expose the little ‘uns to Language Intelligence by Joseph Romm. He cites master utilized of the language from Shakespeare to Lady Gaga. He loves Lady Gaga’s rhetoric! Not theos or ethos, just logos.
Just a thought.
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Howdy Peter! Thanks for the idea; I’m always keen on improving the classroom. And anything that makes the subject relevant and relatable is bound to be a hit with the kids. I’ll give it a whirl.