Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Presents from Gerry's Auntie Jan (1997):
Red Wooden Shoes, Inscribed "Ben" & "Sam"
and an Amazingly Detailed Bread Dough St. Nick


Dear Editors,

I am old and weary, beyond my years. Some of my friends in the English Department say there is no humor, no heart, no faith, no optimism in the department. My colleagues say, "If you see it in the DEPARTMENT NEWSLETTER, it must be so." Please tell me the truth.



Your friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of skeptical times. They do not believe except they read and hear and feel. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by the meetings, the memos, and the mumbling in the halls. All minds, Virginia, are susceptible to littleness. In this great department of ours, one is a mere insect, an ant, in intellect as compared with the boundless world about us, as measured by our many intelligences capable of grasping the whole.

Yes, Virginia, there are humor, heart, faith, and optimism in this department. They exist as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your job its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be this department if there were no humor, no heart, no faith, no optimism. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would no childlike faith then, no poetry, no prose, no romance enough to make tolerable this job. We would have no enjoyment, except in meanness, bitterness, and pessimism. The light with which our profession fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe this department has humor, heart, faith, optimism! You might as well not believe in teachers. You might get your colleagues to listen in at all the classroom and office doors on any given day to catch the spirit, but even if you did not see the spirit, what would that prove? Nobody sees humor or heart or faith or optimism, but that is no sign that there are none. The most real things in education are those that no one can see. Did you ever see teachers dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they do not. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart each other's theories and think you see what makes the thesis, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest, not even the united strength of all the strongest that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, prose, and love can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No humor, heart, faith, or optimism in the English Department. Thank our lucky stars; thank all gods and goddesses! They live and live forever. A thousand semesters from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 semesters from now, these will continue to make glad the heart of this and every college and every student, professor, and administrator in the land.


I came across the above academic rendering
back in the 90s when I worked at the
Community College of Philadelphia

Click here to read the history and text of the original

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