Thursday, June 8, 2017

And We're Back...

Something has happened.

I’ve spent the last year researching and writing about how story helps us deal with grief and loss.  It was a subject I’d thought about for a long time, and as I read deeper and deeper into theology, philosophy, history, and story, I found myself adrift on a broad and very deep sea.  What came out of it was a book made up of memoir, narrative theory, God and life—not necessarily in that order, or in any order.  I realized that there was a lot I have not worked through about mid-life, and that if I did not find a path through the dark wood, as Dante did with his Divine Comedy, I would lose myself and be frozen in the mire of middle age.  I’m happy to say I think the darkness has abated and it is summer again.

Some people get hair plugs, a new significant other, a sports car, whatever, to get through the realization that there are more days behind than ahead.  That’s not me.  I want to do meaningful work and I want to make peace with the person I am now, after all the trials and tribulations, the joys and sorrows of my lived experience.

So I have been away for a while, but now I am back.

The way storytelling is a theological response to grief and loss has become a book.  I am finishing my revisions now; all I have to do is find a publisher, which is a big item on the to-do list, but even if it never sees the light of publication, I have worked something out in my mind.  I have learned to grieve for those I’ve lost while not letting the grief stop me in my tracks.  Joan Didion wrote once that “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”  She also told us that “I write to find out what I am thinking,” and actually, I have heard that said by more than one writer I have admired.  I know what I am thinking:  this life is all too brief and yet, we cannot cling to it.  Life is impermanence, pain, challenge, but it is also exhilarating and powerful and inspiring and joyful.

Most of what I’ve learned about this life has come as a result of reading.  I read everything.  I carry books and magazines everywhere with me, often at the expense of nearly walking into traffic or falling into an open manhole.  I have always loved to read, as I have expressed in so many ways on this blog.  It has been my saving grace over the years.  This blog will continue to be a record of my reading life along with the experiences and insights I discover.  I hope to become more insightful by reading wise men and women and then writing about them and their stories as a way to cement the wisdom in my memory.

This blog is about “literature, culture, and the life of the mind.”  I have changed that tagline a few times in the last ten years, once to “questions, comments, true stories of adventure,” which is something I ask my students at the end of a class:  In truth, the words I post here will be all of the above.  Sometimes, study only reveals more questions, but I love the questions.  The world of information we have at our fingertips gives us the answers, but without the questions, we would not know what to look for.  The quest, the search goes on, and when we are gone, others will take our place.  It is all a seamless garment of us, of history, of story, of life.

So I hope you have missed me over the last four months, because I want you to come back and tell me what you have been up to.  If you like something you see here, I’d like to know, and if you disagree, even better.  Let’s dialogue.  The life of the mind is a communal life; our country is going through some difficult times and we need to be thinking and discussing and working toward solutions to the problems that plague us.  We need to listen to each other’s stories; they are imperative to the communal life of which we dream where people can disagree and discuss, but remain respectful and considerate and loving of others.

I have often toyed with the idea of renaming this blog, The Student’s View.  As I reach the milestone of thirty years in the classroom as a teacher, I still, still feel more like a student than a teacher.  I think the best classes over the years have been ones where we are all learning together.  I’ll keep it The Teacher’s View for now; after ten years and 447 posts, it would be weird to change the name.  But know that those who enter into a dialogue often teach me far more than I teach them.  I have had some wonderful student-teachers over the years, and I thoroughly enjoy hearing from them here or on other social media sites.

So sound your barbaric yawp to the sky, as Uncle Walt instructed us, and let us live and live well so that when we are gone, everyone will miss us and only the trees will remember.  I know that we will turn to dust, but our stories will remain.  Let us live forward into the future.  Onward!


  1. Good to see you're back, Mr. Martin - and even better to see your winter has faded.

    "Questions, comments, true stories of adventure" is a phrase I uttered a lot in college, whether I was leading an org meeting or simply prying into my friends' lives. Onward indeed!

    - Shahe

  2. I am so happy to hear from you, Shahe. Hope all is well. I think about my students from those years quite often and I am glad we all escaped that awful school. Enjoy your summer.

  3. Welcome back! Sounds like we are on a similar journey. The past 18 months I have retired from my day job, begun work on a novel, moved to a new city and moved in with my parents to help care for my mom who has dementia. I'm definitely working through past issues as my mom and I have always had a difficult relationship. I have found that there is some healing that comes in caring for her.
    I'm glad you wrote a book! I've been following you for years and always learn and enjoy what you write. Over the next hill we go!

  4. Great stuff as always, Paul. I have missed you, but I knew you'd be back. I figured you were busy w/ your master's program. Is your book the result of your master's thesis?

  5. Lori,

    So sorry to hear about your mom. We are all fated to become the storytellers when that awful disease kicks in. We become the memory keepers. I wish you patience, grace, and love as you continue to care for her. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment, and especially for checking back in over the years.

    Take care,

  6. Hey Jeff,

    I haven't posted much on the blog or social media, but I have been following your trials and tribulations on Facebook. Man, 2017 has already been a rough year. Keep slogging away my friend and keep your head up. Life is what happens to us when we are making other plans, as Lennon said. We just have to soldier on and hope things work out in the end. I'm pulling for you.


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