Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Lear Moment

I like a nice coincidence.

A day after seeing a satisfactory King Lear over there in Orinda, I happened to be included in a reunion over Hawaiian food of several of my students from ten years ago. They were meeting anyway near the campus and included the old man.

Not to lapse into bathos and polysyllabic excess but: They were so nice to me. That's the only way I can put it. I was treated with shows of affection and respect. (I use the word "shows" quite deliberately, for -- like Lear -- the "fool" part of me whispers me toward wisdom.)

Most of us are the anti-Lear, you know. We get old, and we have nothing much to divide up. There's no weapon left to bludgeon kindness out of the world. Oh, in a class as a teacher, we still have a good deal of power, and we can make the students bend to our will in superficial ways.

And in so many petty ways we do. But the students know the class will be over and then their time at the university will be over, and they will be blessedly free of us, having wrung out of us that final "To Whom It May Concern" recommendation, and the smiling can damn well stop.

Also, they know that soon enough they will really be done with us, decisively so. As I used to tell my students when I was younger -- but never now -- you will live to see me in the ground. In the long run: You win.

But when your students come back ten years later and treat you nice and listen to your stories and say you hardly look a day older.... And that's true; it is certainly not a day older you look.

When you are treated nice, once again you feel sorry for poor old Lear. He should have expected less and settled for what he got. He should have settled for courtesy.

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