Empty and Loving It

by Simon Goland, December 22, 2009

Today’s Reflection is about being empty. And loving it.
It is Saturday morning, and I am in bed, though not alone. Perfect company – a book, yerba mate tea, and Tobi. Tobi and tea are regulars, the book is the exception. Not because I don’t bring books to bed, for I certainly do. After all, I claim to operate a business at home, which means that a work-related book can be read in the bedroom or the washroom, the laptop can be in bed (or anywhere else really), and I can conduct a teleconference while sitting on the deck in the sun.

No, the book is an exception at the moment, because it is not a work-related book. Nor it is related to my studies. Even more so, it is a book that I already read. I just thought that I have missed it, and decided to re-acquaint myself with its adventures and wisdom. Despite the fact that there is about a shelf of dusty books I have not yet read, patiently waiting for my attention.

And it is a big deal, because it is a sign that I finally have an opportunity to slow down.

“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as I live it is my privilege – my *privilege* to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I love. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me; it is a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got a hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” – George Bernard Shaw
It really is the first opportunity in several months, and I am feeling thoroughly used up, as Shaw says above. Fall term has finally ended, and teaching 4 graduate level courses in two different universities can be seriously draining. One course with 15 students and one final reflection paper to read and grade. Another course has 30 students, and about 3 different final assignments for each student to read, savour, and grade. The other two courses continue, one with 18 students, and one with 24, with series of ongoing assignments. The more articulate students in these two courses submit an 18-page assignment, the less articulate ones stop themselves at about 8. About a year ago, the record stood on 52 pages, and I am very happy nobody is trying to break it. Yet. Luckily, both courses have a bit of a holiday right now, and will resume within a week or two.

All that, and then the rest of life.

It is not the first time I am experiencing this paradox of duality that life sends my way every so often, to remind me to remain alive, grateful, and engaged. Yes, I am feeling drained, exhausted mentally and emotionally, and craving non-intelligent conversations with Tobi. And, at the same time, I am inspired, touched, and utterly fulfilled by the experience of being engaged in such a rich and deep level with incredibly passionate, experienced, and committed students. I am doing what I absolutely love and believe in.

“People may be married to work, but their real desire is to have an affair of the soul.” – Lance Secretan
Being empty. Feeling full. No difference really. Time-out is only that.

A sunny week to you all, inside and out.