Colors and Tears

August 19, 2014 – 7:40 pm (EST)

It’s Tuesday evening and I as I sit and write I am filled with emotion.  A soft, gray swirling tail of pipe smoke crosses through my field of vision, the aroma as familiar as any old companion.

Today was the second full day of activities at university for those of us in the professoriate who are starting new here this fall.  The intentionality of the program is appreciated but I have been growing increasingly anxious to get started doing my job.  I’ll confess I skipped out on the seminars this afternoon and after getting soaked in a summer shower and running home to change suits and grab an umbrella I was off to my office and that’s when the emotions hit. — Rather that’s when they were revived.  They actually started Sunday afternoon…

I saw a charming movie entitled “The Giver.”  It received mediocre reviews but any movie that can summon forth tears is welcomed.  Apparently the book it is based on is required reading in many middle and high school classrooms today.  However when Lois Lowry originally penned it in the early-mid 90’s, I was graduating from college so I was never exposed to this simple but powerful story.  It is a parable about a civilization sometime in the future whose elders believed the best way to purge their society of crime, violence and harsh emotions was to re-create their world in black and white.  Literally they systematically removed individual characteristics and distinctions, mandated injections that would inhibit people’s feelings and stressed cognitive and verbal precision.  On paper I suppose their methods proved effective.  However the point of the story is that to achieve this they had to sacrifice life itself.  I won’t go too far into it if you have not yet seen it or like me, have never read the book.  Suffice it to say the young protagonist Jonas becomes aware of the emotional, beautiful and at times terrible way people used to live and he fights to engage that once again.  In the process he turns the finely tuned community on its collective head.

I cried because there were wonderful montages: deeply moving reminders that despite our capacity to inflict pain and suffering on ourselves and each other life really is worth living.  Reminders that passion is rarely pragmatic, love rarely logical, life rarely simple.

I have taken many wrong turns in life.  I have known too much pain and shame.  But this afternoon as I sat at my desk on campus dreaming about my courses and chatting with my colleagues I realized I was happy.  I really like it all.  I like being here.  I like being a professor.  I like laughing in the hallways and strategizing how I can become a better educator.  I like engaging life on this level.  I like breathing and feeling deeply.  And if these things must be inextricably coupled with anxiety and fear and pain…well then so be it.

“Things could change…,” Jonas went on. “Things could be different. I don’t know how, but there must be some way for things to be different. There could be colors.” 

Lois LowryThe Giver



One Comment

  • Ben says:

    Loved this. I read the Giver in middle school (required reading, as you mentioned) and it still remains as one of my favorite books. As always, thanks for reminding me Terry that it’s okay to be human. I’m so happy that you’re embracing your new position and I couldn’t be more jealous of all the students you’ll touch; they’re lucky to have you!!

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