I cannot claim that taking English 340, or “Digital Humanities,” had some profound impact on my life. That would be nonsense, and a very poor attempt at obsequiousness. That is the dream, yes, of teaching some course that truly changes the course of a student’s life? Or, at the very least, one hopes to touch them in some way, to change their worldview, to reach the very essence of their being. At least, that is a musing from a future teacher.
I could give tautologies about how every action causes change in us all, and they would certainly be true. Their level of usefulness is more dubious, but they would be accurate. It is true to say that we are the product of our every moment of being, and the experiences that lie therein. Certainly, humans do not change simply with a snap, with a large, notable action. Rather, it is all the tiny, fractured pieces that one must piece together to attempt to understand a human being, be that another or oneself. Unfortunately, humans are more like kaleidoscopes, beautiful in their individual parts and incomprehensible when trying to force their pieces together.
Perhaps that is what learning is, hm? Attempting to piece together shards of shattered glass. Sometimes one gets cut, and certainly the pieces are not all there, but finding how they fit together, that journey, is what one can hope to strive for in life.
Of course, I have a Camusian bent, and I recognise full well the impossibility of attempting to complete a puzzle with only a fraction of the pieces. It is that desire to put together the few clumps of interconnected pieces into a larger tapestry that creates the absurd. But Camus’ solution is to accept the absurd and carry on, and so we shall and so we must.
What is literature, then? It is the art of weaving, I would say. There is not enough thread to make a bolt of cloth, so first the writer must spin their own. Having spun the thread of their mind, they may weave the cloth. But weaving is not always a simple task. The difficulty, as it often is, is the quality of the loom. Is it a loom millennia old, or is it one powered and industrial? Or, rather, is the device modern? To say another way, must one tread new paths, or does one simply follow well-worn trails?
Back to the spinning. Thread comes not from ether, but is instead corporeal. So, how is more spun? Well, to spin thread, one needs material, be that silk or cotton or wool. Wool is the author’s trade, well grown by their minds’ sheep, so long as one is wise enough to shear. Wool can come from brilliant fantasies or from exotic travels or from extraordinary experiences. Though, sometimes, one best enjoys the wool obtained from the loons on the lake or the beans in the ground.
For some, that sheared wool becomes a nest for the creatures all around. This can fill one with the gossips and transience and impactful knowledge of society. Or, sometimes, the wool is best nested in by the woodchucks and the sparrows and the drumming of the rain. Being alone with thoughts leaves much time for shearing. And, certainly, the more one can shear, the more one can spin and the more nests can be made.
So, what did I learn in this class, hm? I think the coronavirus and Walden both granted me appreciation of the loons on the lake, the sparrows in the tree, the rain from above, and the peace that can bring.