life as understood

by jeff carr, master of the arts, -------------------------------------------------------------------------- presumably from a couch


a month of war and peace

courtesy of Jeff |

The fact that I'm writing now means it's peace, assuming that the lull between measured attacks constitutes peace. I feel like if we turned off the TV, I could hear the bombers doing fly-bys overhead and the soldiers (hussars, mostly) milling hungrily in the courtyard.

Lately I've been talking a lot about how late I stay up studying--my classmates must surely have noticed. 4:00. 3:00. 4:30. I wear it like a medal. Far beyond the family obligations or the part-time job, though, the truth is that I'm just a slow reader, and as a graduate student in the humanities, that's everything. Literally. No problem sets, group projects, even presentations. A few days ago I had, going by my normal rate, about 21 hours worth of reading to do in 22 hours. I skimmed.

The moral battle starts around 1:00. Chances are, I could slip by without reading every page. I could skim a couple chapters and hyper-focus on certain other things to buttress the discussion in class. One well-aimed comment and my work could be done. In another class, I could potentially spurn the entire 400-page assignment and get by just fine. After all, the discussion is mostly just criticizing such-and-such historian for attempting to wedge this bit of Russian history into a larger theoretical framework which doesn't quite fit. Tolstoy hated that kind of history.

Over the past month, the new longest book I've ever read has taught me all about freedom vs. necessity, chance vs. predestination, consciousness vs. reason, but I've yet to apply any of its lessons to my present situation. Ironically, I'm far too saturated with knowledge to think. I'll take fewer units next quarter. But for now, that reading is finished, and the battle continues.

"On the narrow dam of Augesd, on which for so many years an old miller in a cap used to sit peacefully with his fishing rods, while his grandson, his shirtsleeves rolled up, fingered the silvery, trembling fish in the watering can; on this dam over which, for so many years, Moravians in shaggy hats and blue jackets had peacefully driven in their two-horse carts laden with wheat and had driven back over the same dam all dusty with flour, their carts white--now, on this narrow dam, between wagons and cannon, under horses and between wheels, crowded men disfigured by the fear of death, crushing each other, dying, stepping over the dying, and killing each other, only to go a few steps and be killed themselves just the same." (War and Peace, I.3.XVIII)