Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Whenever one of my students complains about a particular assignment or quiz or test being too 'difficult', I always respond the same way, saying: "Life is difficult."

Not a particulary original comeback, somewhat smug and flippant, truth be told, and it's exactly the kind of comment I would have absolutely despised a teacher of mine saying back when I was a student. (If it's true that we all eventually become our parents, perhaps it's inevitable that we become our teachers, too.) I've even been called on it -- when one of my students asked a particular annoying question (meaning, a question I didn't have the answer to, but should have), I muttered "that's difficult," to which he cheerfully responded, sensing his opening: "Life is difficult!"

And yet, it is, isn't it? Life. Difficult. I think when we say (or when I say) that 'life is difficult', we mean 'life isn't fair'.

And yet, what is 'fair'? Does fair mean that we're all born looking like movie-stars, blessed with the intellect of Einstein, granted a lifespan that leads us from year to year with the grace of an angel and the luck of the luckiest penny? If we break our leg, or crash our car, or come down with cancer, does this mean that the universe has it in for us?

I tend to think that way, in my most stupid and selfish moments. As if the universe gives a shit what I'm doing. As if the universe plots and pleads against us or with us, hastening our noble moments to fruition while simultaneously getting ready to put the whoopee cushion under our asses when we least expect it. Since the possibility of a supernatural deity guiding and gliding our lives remains somewhat distant and opaque, I tend to view the cosmos as an entity unto itself, its own God, perhaps, or Gods, rather, made up of an infinite number of divine parts, some naughty, some nice, some both at one and the same time. Like a Santa Claus who constantly confuses his two lists of our virtues and vice.

The only way to combat such an indifferent and plotting universe is to rely on our own humanity to combat the unfairness of the battlefield of life. Instead of relying on the Lord, we rely on each other. Instead of looking for clues in the weather, we look for clues within ourselves, and adjust accordingly.

Who knows? There may, in fact, be a God, or there may, in the end, merely be a self-sustaining universe that whips us around according to its own celestial rules. Either way, when life gets difficult, I think it's better, more humane, more comprehensible, to simply step outside and feel the air and take a quick look around to see who is out there that we can help. Or who may be able to help us.


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Sierra said...

Wonderful post. I always recall the comic line from the "Princess Bride" when I'm feeling sorry for myself:
"Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."

Amanda said...

interesting...i loved that "like the universe gives a shit what i'm doing." for some reason i think i needed to hear that today.