Saturday, December 22, 2007

Romancing the Nervous Breakdown

I have never been one of those truly driven scholar-types. I have admired them, however. In fact, what held me in thrall was less the accomplishment than the craziness that fueled it. Example: at age nine (or thereabouts) I saw the movie The Paper Chase (the one where John Houseman intones, "You get grades the old-fashioned way: you earn them"). I fell in love with the idea of law school. Not with being a lawyer, mind you, but with law school: the stress, the challenge, the idea of pushing myself to the breaking point, then just a bit beyond. I think it's something akin to the mentality of people who run marathons.

As it has worked out, I have seen what this looks like in academia, and I'm not really it (except on those rare occasions when I am). I enjoy pure entertainment, company of other humans, walking in the rain, browsing bookstores, or just sitting in coffee shops just watching the world go by far too much to be that kind of scholar.

But I have to confess that I still find a perverse romance in it all.


Belle said...

He he he. Me too. Until I read a blurb in a London bookstore, about Tolstoy being a fox trying to be a hedgehog. That really struck me, as I was hedgehogging my life and ignoring my foxishness.

Now I simply embrace the fox of Belle, and wonder at the hedgehogs. Not me, not in this life. But oh, yes. There are times that kind of focus seems so attractive. Seductive. Safe.

Anonymous said...

I think that this has more to do with competition for jobs and praise in the world than with scholarship, don't you? It's a real failing in education today, imo.