Saturday, March 05, 2011

`Whatever Was at Hand'

“If your [sic] so smart how come your [sic] teaching little kids and not writing books [sic]”

So writes an anonymous reader. Despite the paucity of punctuation I take this as a question. What follows is an incomplete answer. I work in a public school with children because I enjoy the company of most kids, and even on the most discouraging day I contribute something, if only a joke or civil greeting, to at least one kid’s life. For some of them, I may be the only source of such things. Also, for a writer, kids are good material.

I’ve earned at least a portion of my living from writing for thirty-two years, mostly for newspapers. That too was a good source of material – for writing, for life – and served to patch my moth-eaten education. I’ve written about science and engineering for two universities, furthering my career as an autodidact and curing me of the notion I might enjoy college teaching. As to a book: I like what I’m doing, publically and otherwise.

Zbigniew Herbert writes in “The Price of Art” (Still Life with a Bridle):

“The Dutch painters of the `golden age’ undertook all kinds of employment that a contemporary so-called artist would reject as degrading. They were artisans, and their humility toward life was great and beautiful.”

“…Others, the best known painters among them, led a `double’ professional life. They were cooks, innkeepers, owners of taverns or brick kilns, petty clerks, traders of works of art, real estate, stockings, tulips, and whatever was at hand.”

5 comments:

Cynthia Haven said...

Wow, Patrick. No doubt your training has contributed to your graciousness, forbearance, and patience.

You have my admiration (as well as my readership).

ghostofelberry said...

i must confess, when i read Wittgenstein's biography and learnt he spent 6 or so years teaching little kids in Austrian villages, i was moved to scrawl "if he wuz so smart how cum he waznt wr8t8g bucks?" all over my face, in crayon.

It felt like the right thing to do at the time.

Anonymous said...

I am glad that this ignorant comment was sent. It provided another chance to reflect on how much your example inspires many of us.

I don't approach your accomplishment in any dimension (family, school, reading, writing) but the way you share them (clear, with no self-inflation) provides both model and challenge.

Gaw said...

John Gross on 'the Man of Letters', who

"[...i]n a world which favours experts and specialists... is increasingly liable to be dismissed as a dilletante or resented as a trespasser. But if his uncertain status often puts him at a disadvantage, it also makes possible, ideally, the breadth and independence which are his ultimate justification. In this sense, at least, however archaic it may seem in other respects, the idea of the man of letters has a place in any healthy literary tradition."

D. G. Myers said...

Patrick,

Doesn’t Anecdotal Evidence add up to several books by now?

—David