This place might be more alive than I initially suspected. At least, the younger students are in motion and seem very happy. I was in the cafeteria today and a ton of them, all looking cherubic in Sunday dress, came from Mass and bounced off the walls and distracted me while I was writing out some notes. – I, for my part, looked like a total lunatic and loner in the back of the cafeteria, especially as I tend to stare at everything around me while talking to myself. –
Everyone else, even when happy, reminds me of these lines of Dickinson’s –
The Feet, mechanical, go round –
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
A Wooden way,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –
I’m not saying people aren’t doing their job, or aren’t doing it well. One example is that the older students are very serious. I just get the feeling that everyone here is overburdened. And that is the worst irony, if this is indeed the case, for my books tell me over and over that leisure and wealth are necessary for education, and it looks like neither are present here.
What this place may be burdened with is a myth, the myth that hard work and fighting tons of obstacles is rewarded by grace in this life. Grace in this life stems from what can be reasonably expected of another (cf. Strauss, Xenophon’s Socratic Discourse). The version of the American dream imposed here is not unlike that imposed on many of my friends on the East Coast: lots of work must result in something useful, good things must happen to good people. If nothing good results, quite obviously no good was done during the process.
The immigrant song we were sold – where the Irish and Italians assimilated and all are happy – is a shadow of a dream now. If Scorcese hasn’t exploded it via Gangs of New York and The Departed, we should see it utterly annihilated now as American life impractically expects the practical to solve everything.