Thursday, November 04, 2010

`Face That When You Come to It'

Four or five girls on the playground last week surrounded a boy and kicked him repeatedly. One of them grabbed his glasses and snapped the frame in half. Two girls received one-day in-school suspensions, which amount to sitting all day in the principal’s office, reading and doing homework.

“Behavior: it all reduces to a moral issue. We must not want something from another so much that we steal it; cannot kill another and benefit.”

Last Friday a kid reported a fight on the basketball court. I turned and saw twelve or fifteen boys in a roiling cluster, kicks and punches flying. The epicenter was one of my reading students who had been suspended two weeks earlier for urinating in the girls’ restroom and staging a curse-filled, chair-throwing tantrum when confronted. He received a two-day at-home suspension and showed up tardy Wednesday morning. Others lost recess for a week.

“Talent, knowledge, humility, reverence, magnanimity involve the inconvenience of responsibility or they die. To the bonanza, the legacy, the professional hit, it would be well if our attitude were that of the Brazilian dazzled by unearthing a caldeirão (cluster of diamonds): `My Lord and Heavenly father, if this wealth endangers my soul, let it vanish.’”

On Tuesday a boy holding his upper thigh said a girl had hit him with a rock, the same girl who broke the other boy’s glasses. She told me she had been aiming for his head. I escorted him to the nurse and took the girl to the principal’s office. Back on the playground, a sobbing boy holding his right shoulder said another girl had hit him with a rock. I took him to the nurse. The rock throwers said it was revenge for being ratted on for the glasses-breaking incident.

“Example is needed, not counsel; but let me submit here these four precepts:

“Feed imagination food that invigorates.

“Whatever it is, do it with all your might.

“Never do to another what you would not wish done to yourself.

“Say to yourself, `I will be responsible.’

“Put these principles to the test, and you will be inconvenienced by being overtrusted, overbefriended, overconsulted, half adopted, and have no leisure. Face that when you come to it.”

[The quoted passages are from “Profit is a Dead Weight,” an article Marianne Moore published in the October 1963 issue of Seventeen and collected in The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore.]


Uncle Toby said...

I like precepts 1,3 and 4. Not so hot on number 2. Didn't the rock-hurling girl follow that one au pied de la lettre?

Thomas D said...

I love The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore. I read it as one might read Scripture for several years in the early '90s. It is just that good.