It’s all trivial — your grouse, my hermit, Bernard’s Byron. Comparing what we’re looking for misses the point. It’s wanting to know that makes us matter. Otherwise, we’re going out the way we came in. That’s why you can’t believe in the afterlife, Valentine. Believe in the after, by all means, but not the life. Believe in God, the soul, the spirit, the infinite, believe in angels if you like, but not in the great celestial get-together for an exchange of views. If the answers are in the back of the book I can wait, but what a drag. Better to struggle on knowing that failure is final.
~Hannah Jarvis, in Arcadia by Tom Stoppard.
I saw Arcadia on Broadway about a month ago. I read the play the past couple days. It was so good it almost made me want to cry. My wife was totally justified in the mean look she gave me when I told her I hadn’t heard of it. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever read, and I can’t wait to have the chance to teach it. (Frank Noschese already does in his science class).
One of the best pieces of teaching advice I ever got was “never ask a question you know the answer to” (Thanks, Becky!). When we teach students what we already know, to some degree, we’re wasting time. The answers are there, after all, in the book, so why bother having the student come up with them? If only we could all just struggle on in our classrooms, even if knowing that failure is the final end. It’s the wanting, it’s the desire, that makes the contemplative life worth living, not the right answer.