Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Handed My Own Life

University of Glasgow Coat of Arms

[Thanks to Peter Bunder & Good Shepherd for this photo & caption]

In An American Childhood, Annie Dillard vividly describes her initiation into the world of natural science, her early discovery, years before college, "that you do what you do out of your private passion for the thing itself." I love her scenario of revelation, though the indifference of her privileged parents fills me with some misgiving:
“Mother . . . gave me to understand that she was glad I had found what I had been looking for, but that she and Father were happy to sit with their coffee, and would not be coming down [to check out her biology experiment in the basement]. She did not say, but I understood at once, that they had their pursuits (coffee?) and I had mine. She did not say, but I began to understand then, that you do what you do out of your private passion for the thing itself. I had essentially been handed my own life” (148 - 49, emphasis added).
In Homegrown Democrat, Garrison Keillor writes of his education in very similar terms, describing himself as an undergraduate "with no money to speak of and no clear plan for the future but . . . teachers who engage him with gravity and fervor and that's enough. That was the true spirit of the university, the spirit of the professors who loved their work. That was the heart and soul of the place . . . ." He enumerates half a dozen of his most inspirational professors, concluding with a visit to the library where "that Niagara of scholarship holds you in its sway, the deluge and glory of learning, and you begin to see where work and play become one. And imagine working at something you love. And that was how the University of Minnesota gave me life" (94 - 96, emphasis added).

These selections and more on my
~ Handed My Own Life ~

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