I am content, I do not care

Once more, I have been lazy and allowed my blog to go completely dormant over the last month. Did you miss me? Perhaps you did, perhaps you didn’t — today, I am content not to care.

Now, now — don’t be offended. That sounds far more harsh than I actually mean it to. I’m just playing with words from a poem I’ve just discovered that is not only excellent, but will perhaps become my life’s mantra from this point, onward: Careless Content by John Byrom.

I must confess that, before this afternoon, I had no idea who John Byrom was, and would still be unaware of him now had I not been forced by considerable boredom to poke around my bookshelves looking for something to read. In scanning my shelves, my eye landed on an anthology I’d bought a few years ago (very cheaply, might I add) at a MESS book sale: The New Oxford Book of Eighteenth Century Verse (sounds exhilarating, does it not?). I dusted it off and flung it on my bed, “Why not?” I thought.

And so, while waiting on my supper to cook, I started to flip through. I found some hilarious poems, some boring ones, and some that were too terribly long and tried my patience. I also, however, found this one poem — Careless Content — that I have now read ten times over I love it so much. It’s funny how pieces of literature, art, or music find their way into your life just as you need them, and this one fell into my life at so perfect a time that I am once again a little weirded out by the rule of serendipity that seems to reign my life.

Of course, I couldn’t help but share. Here it is:

I am content, I do not care,
Wag as it will the world for me;
When fuss and fret was all my fare,
It got no ground, as I could see:
So, when away my caring went,
I counted cost, and was content.
With more of thanks, and less of thought,
I strive to make my matters meet;
To seek, what ancient sages sought,
Physic and food in sour and sweet;
To take what passes in good part,
And keep the hiccups from the heart.
With good and gentle-humour’d hearts
I choose to chat where’er I come,
Whate’er the subject be that starts;
But if I get among the glum,
I hold my tongue to tell the troth,
And keep my breath to cool my broth.
For chance or change, of peace or pain,
For Fortune’s favour, or her frown,
For lack or glut, for loss or gain,
I never dodge, nor up nor down;
But swing what way the ship shall swim,
Or tack about, with equal trim.
I suit not where I shall not speed,
Nor trace the turn of ev’ry tide;
If simple sense will not succeed,
I make no bustling, but abide:
For shining wealth, or scaring woe,
I force no friend, I fear no foe.
Of Ups and Downs, of Ins and Outs,
Of “they’re i’ th’ wrong,” and “we’re i’ th’ right,”
I shun the rancours, and the routs;
And, wishing well to every wight,
Whatever turn the matter takes,
I deem it all but ducks and drakes.
With whom I feast I do not fawn,
Nor if the folks should flout me, faint;
If wonted welcome be withdrawn,
I cook no kind of a complaint,—
With none dispos’d to disagree;
But like them best, who best like me.
Not that I rate myself the rule
How all my betters should behave;
But fame shall find me no man’s fool,
Nor to a set of men a slave;
I love a friendship free and frank,
And hate to hang upon a hank.
Fond of a true and trusty tie,
I never loose where’er I link;
Tho’, if a bus’ness budges by,
I talk thereon just as I think:
My word, my work, my heart, my hand,
Still on a side together stand.
If names or notions make a noise,
Whatever hap the question hath,
The point impartially I poise,
And read or write, but without wrath:
For, should I burn or break my brains,
Pray, who will pay me for my pains?
I love my neighbour as myself,
Myself like him too, by his leave;
Nor to his pleasure, pow’r or pelf,
Come I to crouch, as I conceive;
Dame nature doubtless has design’d
A man the monarch of his mind.
Now taste and try this temper, sirs,
Mood it and brood it in your breast;
Or, if ye ween, for worldly stirs
That man does right to mar his rest,
Let me be deft and debonair:
I am content, I do not care.

It’s less about what you know and more about how you came to know it

Conversations and events over the last few weeks have me determined to finally write the entry I’d planned to write quite a while ago on the nature of what it is to be a good teacher. I use the word teacher in its broadest sense, allowing it to encompass what it means to pass on knowledge and wisdom of any sort, and in any situation. I also use it in the more conventional sense, which is to denote a teacher within a system of education, whether it be at the beginning levels as an Early Childhood Educator or within the halls of a university at the level of professor. There are fundamental truths about teaching that apply to every incarnation of the action itself, as well as the vocation.

Before I get started though, I should say that what follows are my observations, things I’ve learned from being both a student and a teacher, and things I’ve learned from the many, many people in my life who have made it their life’s purpose to teach, and teach well.

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John Donne made me cry!

It’s all Michael Collins’ fault! It’s his fault, and that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it like the ludicrous sticky tack I found in my kitchen drawer that doesn’t work at all due to age, humidity, and its existence as ludicrous sticky tack. Which of course is to say that not only is that not my story, but that I couldn’t stick to it if I triedl. What I’m about to relate to you is only partially the doing of the delightful Michael Collins, and is really more due to my inability to resist love poetry that’s more than a few centuries old (that, and I am a giant nerd, in case anyone didn’t get that before now).

So, this evening I was left with little planned as a friend had to reschedule plans we’d made for another time. This was unfortunate, I thought, but it also left my night wide open to anything else that might come along. I’m a big fan of “anything else that might come along”, and so as I made supper I pondered the few things that I might most enjoy doing for the next few hours. While eating supper, I was chatting to another friend of mine who was in the thick of researching a paper on sonnets, and I noticed another one of Michael’s tweets about John Donne (he’s been reading a lot of Donne, evidently, and loving it), and at that point I decided to set about finding myself some sonnets, and perhaps some specifically written by Mr. Donne! “But wait!” I thought, “where would I best find these things?!”

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Harold Pinter tells it like it is (in a letter)

Discoveries like this are the reason I read the New Yorker’s Book Bench: Harold Pinter, in 1966, wrote a letter to a student who wrote to him inquiring about several possible hidden meanings within Pinter’s play The Caretaker. Pinter responds by basically saying, “Everything is the way it is because that’s the way it is”, and does so in the most straightforward (and sarcastic) manner possible. He, evidently, was not one to attach much meaning to things in his writing. Or at least not in this particular play.

I admire the way he addresses the questions in such a straight way, allowing no room for misinterpretation. Sometimes, stuff is just stuff. The letter reminds me keenly of high school and how frustrating it was (particularly with poetry, but certainly with plays) to sit and read something over and over in an awkward attempt to discover the meaning behind this, or the symbolism of that. Of course, one would inevitably hypothesize something off-base from time to time and be told that that particular interpretation was wrong. That interpretations could be “wrong” has always been a sticking point for me; it still is, and probably always will be.

The thing about a person’s interpretation of an event, an object, or otherwise is that it’s just that — an interpretation. And of course, it’s subject to that person’s perspective. I’m not saying that every interpretation of something is right as that’s not the point of studying literature. I’m saying that an interpretation that misses the mark is perhaps not well enough informed or coming from an untrained eye. This concept easily translates into life as, if you consider the way a person perceives an event or an object in life, it may not be exactly what was intended by that event or object in the first place. Pinter certainly didn’t intend particular meaning to things in his piece, but there could be any number of people who would find meaning by placing it there, themselves. I think, from time to time, that’s the point of a piece — to prompt that sort of exploration. My grade six teacher (a man to whom I owe many things, including one of the best years of my school life) always said that literature is a representation of life, and left it at that. Certain things within a piece can be meant to evoke things, but they don’t always have to mean something, as Pinter so bluntly expresses in his letter.

And sometimes, just sometimes, it’s nice to read/watch something that actually is that straightforward (before plunging back into something torturously loaded with meaning, of course).

Murder Mystery weekend

Well, this weekend was an interesting one for me: a surprise visit from my parents, and loads of surprises on the pages of the two books I flew through this week (one of which I devoured in three hours, but I’ll get to that later).

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MythBusters, are you listening?

So, this is an interesting sort of Fact-Fueled Friday entry: I’ve got a question to ask!

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m a fan of ABC’s cop drama cum rom-com, Castle, and this week’s episode presented a hilarious and intriguing dilemma that involves a 9mm bullet and some lengthy Russian Literature. In the course of the episode, a man is shot and the bullet doesn’t kill him, or even hit him, because there is a copy of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment in his jacket pocket and the bullet halts half way through.

Now, I know that the purpose of making that part of the plot was for the sheer hilarity of it happening, and as a sort of inside joke amongst the well-read of the staff and audience. In fact, Detective Ryan actually makes a rather witty remark that if this man had been a Nicholas Sparks fan, he’d be dead, implying that his good taste in literature literally saved his life. I laughed, I’m not going to lie.

In the meantime, I’d actually like to see it tested. Could a man, shot at relatively close range, survive the shot of a 9mm if it hit Dostoyevsky first?

Seriously. MythBusters, are you listening? This’d be a funny one.

Homesick Sunday

Well, I’ve been strangely on hiatus this week, and I find this to be rather unfortunate. Since I don’t normally post on Sundays, I thought I would get a head start on the new week today, and write a bit about this, that, and the other thing, too. Sometimes, I don’t have a whole lot of anything particular to say, but I like to blog anyway. Today, I will deem Homesick Sunday Miscellany day, and with any luck, be witty and charming enough for someone to take notice.

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