Late-Night Musings: Reading, Writing, Teaching, Living

I forgot that I needed this as a place to make sense of ideas and thoughts. Being at OU for three weeks as both teacher and student, I am overwhelmed by the sea of ideas in which my mind is swimming.

Foucault has a quote drawing on Seneca that I read in an essay by David Bartholomae:

Through the interplay of selected readings and assimilative writing, one should be able to form an identity through which a whole spiritual genealogy can be read. In a chorus there are tenor, bass, and baritone voices, men’s and women’s tones: “The voices of the individual singers are hidden; what we hear is the voices of all together…I would have my mind of such a quality as this; it should be equipped with many arts, many precepts, and patterns of conduct taken from many epochs of history; but all should blend harmoniously into one.”

I love this quote because for me, reading, writing, teaching, and living are things that are inextricably linked. For the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking about how I’m here to read in order to learn how to write better in order to learn how to teach better in order to live more honestly. And those words–read, write, teach, and live–can be shuffled and that sentence still makes sense to me.

I wonder if we can add to Foucault by saying something like: “Through the interplay of selected readings and assimilative writing” as well as interesting friends, families, coworkers, teachers, and students, “one should be able to form an identity through which a whole spiritual genealogy can be read.”

And so, that is to say, I think it’s time to start using this blog again as a place to polish ideas and thoughts, hopefully with your help, to become a better teacher, writer, reader, thinker, and human being. I can’t promise there will be any regularity to my posts or even that they will be anything more than self-indulgent musings, but I’m going to start using this place as a way to publicly upload things I’m thinking about. So thanks for indulging me.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

In fifth grade, my class held a contest to see who could read the most books. I had the credentials to win this contest. In the third grade, I had set the record for most books read over the year. It was somewhere in the sixties. And some of those books had been long. The Hobbit was on that list. Every summer, I participated in the library’s reading contest. It took me a week or two to get to the t-shirt reward for 1,000 pages read. I was not a reader to be messed with. It’s what I did.

That’s why it hurt so much when I lost the fifth grade contest.

See, there’s another lie that the world tells us. It’s that if you put in the work, if you do the right thing, and if you are a good person, then good tings happen. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. 

I was listening to a podcast from Shane Hipps. He was talking about all of these righteous people that don’t get to experience the fruits of their righteousness. One of the stories was about Dirk Willems, a sixteenth century Dutch Baptist. Dirk Willems was being chased by a magistrate who wanted to execute him, and Dirk went across a thinly iced river. Dirk made it across, but the magistrate wasn’t so lucky. Dirk, feeling compelled to turn the other cheek, went back and saved the magistrate. The magistrate then captured him and executed him. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people.

Dirk Willems saving a magistrate and condemning himself

We are trained to believe that we should do good things because they lead to good rewards, but sometimes they don’t. We should do good things because they are good. I may not have won my fifth grade reading contest, but I did read a bunch of books for it, and that was good because it was good.