Wednesday, September 26, 2012


The news-radio station I listen to occasionally has a feature where a pastor of one of the large churches in that city comes in to talk about stuff. (One thing about living in the south: people will go on even not-religiously-oriented radio stations and talk about God, and not be concerned about people complaining).

Anyway, I liked his message for today. Because it made me feel better about my life.

He was talking about passion. And he pointed out that the same root word for passion in Greek (? I think it was Greek, maybe it was Latin) is also a word for suffering. And that people who are passionate about what they are doing sometimes "suffer" - maybe not suffer in this country in the sense that, oh, the Coptic Christians or Iranian Christians suffer for their faith - but that there is some element of sacrifice.

And he noted: if you're passionate about your work, you will make those sacrifices. You will come in early and leave late, you will do more than other people do, you will not just go the extra mile, but the extra second, third, and fourth mile.

And I kind of saw myself in that: granted, I probably don't work as hard as SOME on this campus, but I do know I sacrifice more of my time for teaching and student service than some people do. (I've had students tell me that: that I'm more willing to work with them, I'm more willing to provide help outside of class, than some faculty in other departments). That if you care, you're willing to make those sacrifices.

And, despite my regular bitching about the entitled Snowflakes of the world, I do care. (In fact, I think part of the reason I bitch so much is that I care: I see how they could be better, how they're really smart enough to do the work, if they could just get over being lazy)

And I think that's the root of something that distresses me about some of the students: I see what I perceive as a lack of passion in them. They don't give a dang! To them, coming to class is like, I don't know, going to stock the shelves at the Wal-Mart - it's not something they care about, they know there is some sort of potential future reward (a paycheck at Wal-Mart, a good job with a good degree), but rather than doing their best to be their best while waiting for that reward, they just kind of drift through. And while I can see that that might be okay - and perhaps even in some cases, sanity-saving, if you're working a routine job with little chance of advancement - it doesn't work when you're a college student. Because a lot of what you get out of college is based on what you put in to it. And if you're unwilling to put forth some effort and make some sacrifices - well, you might as well go submit that application to Wal-Mart. But if you want something better, you learn to defer gratification and do what NEEDS to be done, so at some future time you can do what you WANT to do.

And I see students who have problems with this. Who ask for test make-ups because they planned a vacation for the week of an exam. Or who ask for an "excused absence" so they can go wait on line for the new iPhone. Or to miss an early morning class so they can go to the midnight premier of a movie.

And I guess I see all of those things as stuff you really should defer if you're a student (or be willing to put up with the consequences: I have also known people who were up well past midnight who came to my morning classes the next day).

And I'm not saying to ALWAYS defer everything fun that makes you happy - heck, I schedule some weekends that I can be "off" working on teaching, grading, or research, so I can go antiquing, or read a good book, or go meet up with a friend who lives some distance away and hang out with them. But I'm not asking for time off work to do that, and I'm scheduling the work I must do so that I have the free time to do that.

And I admit, a lot of the time, when I do that kind of thing - when I put my work first, or put the responsibilities I have at church first - I start to feel a little sad. And I get to wondering, "Am I just an old fart who puts too much emphasis on being responsible?" Because our society, all too often these days, seems to either sweep up after the people who are irresponsible (often at the expense of the responsible ones) or actually encourages dropping responsibilities in favor of "fun."

And I am not made that way. I cannot slack off on what I know needs to get done and go off and have fun.

And hearing the pastor say that it was because of passion for what we do that we make these sacrifices - of time, of money, of sometimes doing what WE want to do - and that that is a good thing. And he made a comment about how it means you're going out and tackling what God has put before you this day. And I have to admit, a lot of the time I find it hard in my working life to think of myself as doing what God wants me to do....but maybe I am. Maybe by teaching students to calculate standard deviations, or teaching them about disease transmission, or helping them to learn how to do research - that's what I'm supposed to do, and maybe something I will do will help someone in the up and coming generation to become a great doctor, or a great medical researcher, or someone who will make some kind of discovery that will help us to have an energy source that is inexpensive and allows us to decouple our unhealthy relationship with countries that hate us....

it's just a hard thing to remember when you're mired in the situation of dealing with students who want to do the bare minimum to get by.

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