Something is missing.
“Getting thrown out of baseball was like having a part of me amputated. I’ve heard that old men wake up and scratch itchy legs that have been dust for over fifty years. That was me.”
Shoeless Joe Jackson, Field of Dreams.
When I ended my relationship with teaching, a part of me ended. The divorce was not fully signed and sealed but I had reached an immutable moment of realisation that told me that that was that. My affirmation was that I would never return to teaching; ever! So why is it that I find myself sitting here at a desk at the front of a classroom far out into the sticks of a far-out county? The truth is that I’m on the edge of the world and right on the edge of the sea that cares little for immutability. There is nowhere else to go; this is it. If I am driven any further, I shall be treading water before sinking.
So why do my legs itch so much when they have been dead for decades?
I am teaching again. I am in the classroom in front of kids and they are listening. I am not fighting any unwanted skirmishes nor am I being derailed by the type of disruption that is called low-level. I have no other teachers to worry about and have no responsibilities beyond the walls of my classroom. The big picture has shrunk and only the long horizons of a level landscape present a vista to contemplate. I have come full circle and am back where it all began; me and a group of kids. I feel like Methuselah counting down the eons and waiting for the waters to engulf the world. So, it all comes flooding back: the first years I was teaching; the innocent feeling of elation when completing a lesson; the need to teach matched only by the hunger for learning. The feeling of doing something well and preparing the ground for further growth. Just being a teacher was once good enough. That was before the waters rose and took everything.
“Simplicity,” another teacher recently said, was the only thing he was looking for. Simplicity and tranquillity in equal measures may make for another person’s tedium but for him, it was heaven. Our lives choose not to be simple, however. Even when we try so very hard to strip away the superfluous, something interrupts and changes the environment. Teaching, on its own, needs no such assistance as it is in a state of constant ebb and flow. The change paradigm dictates that the universe of education should always be in flux and that it is this that makes it more effective. It’s a need for evolution that drives us to relentlessly pursue change and innovation in the belief that newer is always better. Far be it for me to be a Jeremiah, but when, oh when, will anyone take a moment to stop and think? Can we constantly keep on throwing things away without a consideration for their usefulness? Can we afford to discard ideas and practices that have been tried and tested over decades just so that we can reinvent the wheel, redesign the template and remake the world?
I am at the age now when the future has less in it than the past. I have been on this earth for fifty-five years (sorry, but the expression jumped out of my Christ-complex mind) and I can see all those years that have happened as if I was looking over my shoulder and tracing where my travels had meandered. The future, on the other hand, is a landscape that is shrouded in mist. It is not certain or sure, nor can it be relied upon. So, it is the past that I look to when I need reassurance; yet time is deceptive. I cannot hold it in my hands and yet it is all around, it passes and yet it stays. It is real yet not palpable. From where I stand now, I have merely to incline my thoughts backwards to stumble into a different time. My father’s voice plays on the strings of my memories and a cricket ball so long lost in the long grass remains ever so tantalisingly out of reach. I think and I touch the past. The future has no tangibility or resonance; it is unwritten and unthought of and uncaring. There is a line in a poem by Tony Harrison where he talks about returning home with, “brackish tears.” But with the original meaning of nostalgia, home brings with it pain, either from the separation or from the various unresolved issues it houses.
The future is just as much another country as is death. Its dark corridors are unlit and its offices hold no nameplates. And yet it arrives and mixes with the present to form the past that washes over all in a brackish effluence.
Seizing the day might even be me standing Samson-like between two pillars. There is no Delilah and I’m not begging forgiveness. All that I am doing is pulling the pillars together, drawing both supports closer so that the temple does not collapse. On my right is the beginning and to my left is the ending; between the two stands me and my life and now I cannot stretch anything out beyond its allotted time. I am pulling at the past and as a consequence bringing it closer to the future. One day they two will meet and then my job will be done. The future and the present don’t really exist, it’s just the past chasing both them down until they are caught.
It’s funny how thoughts stand, unsupported. I am writing this some time into the future, rereading and rewriting. I am waiting to blog my thoughts for an audience whom I cannot see and who cannot see me. The distance between us is not a telephone call nor is it a letter. The distance is not even a concept that can be applied to its own definition of time and space. I merely have to load up my text, check it, and then press send (Publish). It’s like that with thoughts. They too have little substance and yet they are heavier than Time itself. That’s me doing a mixture of philosophy and Doctor Who. Boy, do I love blogging!
I once started writing a story about some undergraduate students conducting research into the field of post-mortal decay. The tale ran something like this: they hung out in the city cemetery, hooked up a lot of electrode hooky-uppy things to the recently interred and then sat back to record their findings. Yup, cheesy! Still, in my defence, I never wrote it out properly. It remains as one of those ideas that I have kept in the digital graveyard of my laptop. That’s the place that I keep old plots, ideas and characters who were created for a purpose but then withdrawn (edited-out). Carlos Ruiz Zafon wrote a marvellous novel entitled The Shadow of the Wind which based in Barcelona and its Cemetery of Forgotten books. If you have never read it, read it soon.
Anyway, back to my dormant idea. These students began to receive some strange readings, things so far off the scale that they could not be explained. Only if they could accept the possibility of the dead attempting to communicate could they understand what they were recording. And if they could communicate, what would they have to say?
“Don’t forget to put the bins out!”
If you blog it, they will come.