Studying US History again makes my brain itch. Returning to an abandoned discipline and realizing how much skill I’ve lost is positively maddening.
Archive for October 2003
“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered,” Nelson Mandela writes in his autobiography “A Long Walk to Freedom.” This experience is one that Mandela and I share. Every year, I return to the track. After another year of rain and sleet and snow, its features are virtually the same: the wide turns, petrified rubber, and the mysterious staple pushed into the homestretch of Lane 6 are all exactly as I have left them. The first few weeks of practice, we trudge through the ice and snow, and the same people who lament about July humidity protest February frigidity. Our coach is as passionate, brilliant, and idiosyncratic as always, and when the Varsity is not pretending to love him, they hold treacherous discussions about how much they hate him. Unfortunately, we haven’t won the state championship since the year before I arrived, but we always turn out a quality team nevertheless. The track never changes, but the ways I have changed are incalculable. I have been a passionate, ignorant neophyte, a wise slacker terrified of injury, and a vicious worker teetering on the brink of collapse. The track and field season does not commence until February, but I revisited my old haunts last week and marveled at the way I have changed. From the ashes of May has come the devoted, consistent man of October. The track is a place frozen in time, and when I compare its changes to my own, I feel intense pride. The failures of my past have not broken me; instead, they have fortified me.
The first semester of my freshman year, I did not participate in any extracurricular activities. Instead, I acclimated to the shift from private to public schooling (my freshman class of 900 was 15 times larger than my eighth grade graduating class) and engaged myself in a great Internet romance with a childhood friend whom I loved though I had never seen her before. Our relationship detonated in December when she decided to return to her abusive boyfriend. The foundation of my life was gone, but here a wise friend advised me to do what I love to do. I pursued God and running, and I did so with reckless abandon. I had never run farther than a mile before, but through the pain of running, as with the pursuit of Christ, I cleansed myself of my iniquities. I overexerted myself, and I could not keep up the manic pace of my training forever, but I gamely pushed the limits of my body to see how far it would go.
My relationship with God cooled to a more sublime and meaningful commitment, but my feelings towards running did not cool until I suffered stress fractures in my legs and a severely sprained ankle just as the cross country season began. I returned and finished off the season, but by then I was disillusioned with the pain and afraid of injurying myself again. I did not exert myself my sophomore year; instead, I avoided running hard whenever possible so I could preserve my body.
I took a different approach my junior year. Though I started the cross country season late, I fell in love with running again. I posted my training schedule and goals on the wall and ran through a majority of the offseason. My effort was definitely an improvement over the previous year, but outside factors eventually ruined my dreams of becoming a top-tier runner. My junior year classes were the most difficult and time-consuming of my high school career to date, yet I also engaged myself in more extracurricular activities and social functions than ever before, entered a relationship that proved more time-consuming than I ever imagined, and also spent a significant portion of time in personal leisure activities. During the spring of 2003, I barely slept. I ignored all my physical limits, believing that I could make it all work out as long as I believed in myself. Finally, my body decided it had enough. I skipped a track meet because I’d stayed up all night finishing an English project. I stopped running on the weekends, and when the track season ended, I stopped running altogether. I hated running, as I hated school and all activities. I thought taking a break would give me more energy, but it only sapped more strength from me. Some felt euphoria when school ended; I felt emptiness. Privately, I wondered if I would ever be the same.
On September 27, 2003, the Carmel High School football team completed a 23-20 upset of Warren Central, then ranked #1 in the state and #2 in the nation. For most of the students in the crowd, it was the greatest sports moment of their high school careers. I rushed the field with the team, and I felt completely happy for the first time in months. I ran a victory lap around the track with the team, and though I’d run a cross country meet that morning, when my feet hit the rubber, I felt like I could run a five-minute mile on the spot. All the academic, athletic, and personal setbacks I’d sustained over the last few months were things of the past. I was on the track, and instead of dreading a new season in February, I welcomed it. I am not as good of a runner as I could have been, but I have learned from my errors, and from my efforts I have learned dedication and consistency. These habits will reward me in running and in life.
Many things in my life have changed during my high school career. My church, my school, and my town are constantly expanding and evolving. I have moved to a new house, and I have changed my wardrobe to suit my taller, more muscular frame. The varsity lineup changes every year as the dreams of yesterday become the realities of today. Clocks and calendars are useful for measuring time, but these, too, are always moving forward and changing, just as we are. The best tool for measuring time is a place that stays the same even as everything around it is in turmoil. For me, this place is the track. A lap around the track is always four hundred meters, and every spring dozens of athletes run around it hundreds of times each. The track is a symbol of pain, one of the most vexing, beautiful, and fundamental aspects of life. We can hate it, and we can hide from it, but we must have it to grow and to feel alive. I have enjoyed my high school career, but there is blood, sweat, tears, or vomit in every chapter. I have fallen short of my goals in every aspect of my life at some point. This is not a weakness, however; it is a strength. My experiences have given me strength of character and perspective, things I would never have earned if my life had been easy and perfect. I am not a perfect person, but I am a strong one. When I returned to the track in September, I was a stronger, healthier, and more consistent person than I have ever been. The track has never changed, but I have changed. I have run for 34 consecutive days, slept at least 7 hours every night, and fulfilled all my obligations in a timely fashion. Reflecting on the apparent immortality of the track, I have no regrets about the decision to take a risk and start running. Life found me a boy and made me a man.
Every day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gets closer to 10,000 points. GO, DOW, GO!
Tonight, the Yankees lost again, putting them in the hole 3-2 with two games in New York. If they lose a game, they’re out. LOSE, YANKEES, LOSE!
Well, the balloon popped. It’s not so much of a surprise; by Tuesday afternoon I realized that I’d gone up, up, and away, more distant from others and from myself than I’d ever been before. Only Tuesday, you say? Well, it’s pretty easy to fly off the road if you don’t know where you’re going, or if you’re asleep at the wheel. I fell in love with the performance..so they cheered me on, and I cheered myself on, and I drank and drank and drank, and now I’m up and sober again, and I feel pretty awful right now, but it’s time to clean the mess.
Personal apologies are definitely in order, but so is a general apology. I’ve been a real jerk to just about everyone I’ve come in contact with since school started, including several people who read this journal. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone by what I did, but I certainly wasn’t trying to help anyone, either. I’ve been in it for myself just about the whole time. I wanted to look good, to sound good, to be “The Man,” really. Self-aggrandizement, pride, and foolishness are things I have mastered. I’ve made a lot of jokes at a lot of people’s expenses, and it’s probably hurt you more than I could ever realize. And this from a man who tosses out scripture verses and wears Jesus shirts to school? I’ve been an awful person, and I’m sorry.
I’ve tossed out words and haven’t backed them up before, but this time it will be different. There will be no more stupid jokes for the breakfast table..or the lunch table..or the dinner table. I’ve spoken enough words for this semester..now is the time to shut up and let other people talk. At considerable cost, I’ve learned my lesson..and now I will try to make things right. I’m sorry for what I did..and now I will move on.
I’m going to disallow comments for this entry just because it seems like the appropriate thing to do. If you have something to say to me, though, please email me or call me on the phone about it. It’s a long weekend, after all, and a good time to mend bridges.
In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, soon after the title character takes the throne, the thanes realize he is a tyrant who has brought famine and death to their country (III.vi.24-49). The Scots and English promptly restore Malcolm, heir of Duncan, as King of Scotland. The people are happy with the decision, but Shakespeare gives significant reason to doubt the longevity of Malcolm’s reign. His Malcolm is a naive youth who lacks courage, judgment, wisdom, military prowess, and the support of his brother, Donalbain, and he will eventually lose the crown to the sons of Banquo.
Malcolm first shows his timidity when he flees to England after the murder of Duncan (I.iv.35-40; II.iii.98-102). Malcolm and Donalbain abandon Scotland just when it needs them the most (II.ii.120-126, 136-147). In so doing, the brothers cede Macbeth the throne and the moral high ground. The Scottish nobility turn on the brothers and blame them for the murder of Duncan (II.iv.24-35; III.i.29-32). Malcolm and Donalbain’s cowardly actions in the face of danger belie that they do not have much more fortitude than Macbeth.
Malcolm’s desertion of the throne is not the only example of his poor judgment; he also shows significant naiveté in his misjudgments of Macduff. Macduff is an honest thane who cares so much for Scotland that he abandons his wife and children to pursue Malcolm in England, but Malcolm mistakes him for a potential enemy and decides to test his loyalty first (IV.iii.1-49). The prince incites a homicidal rage in Macduff by pretending to be a totally corrupt person who will ruin the country (IV.iii.50-114). When he is sure that Macduff is truly a good man, Malcolm recants his statements (IV.iii.115-137). Macduff is completely flustered: “Such welcome and unwelcome things at once ’tis hard to reconcile” (IV.iii.138-139). Malcolm again displays his verdancy when he chides Macduff for mourning the total slaughter of the house of Fife (IV.iii.213-219). Malcolm tells the thane that a real man would turn his sadness into rage, to which Macduff replies, “I shall do so; but I must also feel it as a man” (IV.iii.220-221). Malcolm shows that he has learned this lesson when he mourns young Siward’s death (V.viii.50-51). Nevertheless, the pressures of royalty are many, and Malcolm is too far behind and doesn’t have time to catch up.
Malcolm dethrones Macbeth, but he certainly does not make his name feared on the battlefield. Despite possessing an obvious advantage in size, skill, and morale, Malcolm resorts to smoke and mirrors for his battle with Macbeth’s army (V.ii; V.iii.7-10; V.iii.13; V.iv.1-8, 11-14; V.vii.1-4). He orders each soldier to cut down wood from Birnam Forest and hold it in front of them to shield their army from view (V.iv.4-8). The other generals do not comment on the order, emphasizing its negligible impact on the battle (V.iv.8-10). Malcolm’s idea is a clever vehicle to fulfill the witches’ prophecies but a poor strategic decision (IV.i.90-100). He adds to the burden of soldiers who have marched all the way from England, and by using scorched-earth tactics in his own kingdom, he is essentially harming himself (IV.iii.236-240; V.ii.1-5). Malcolm’s performance in battle shows his weakness as a general, a mortal defect in a country where noblemen revolt even against old and well-established kings like Duncan (I.ii.48-65).
If Scotland were a peaceful country, Malcolm might have time to learn on the job; unfortunately, Donalbain’s absence from the attack on Macbeth suggests that Malcolm will not have peace for long (V.ii.7-8). The brothers have already shown their relative disregard for family ties through their impassive acceptance of Duncan’s death, so the temptation of the throne may drive Donalbain to fight his own brother for the crown (II.ii.120-126, 136-147). Shakespeare does not this rift between the brothers. It may prove to be the source of Malcolm’s demise.
Shakespeare does elaborate about how or when Duncan’s sons lose the throne, but he insinuates that they will. The witches prophesy that Banquo, not Malcolm, will beget a long line of kings who will hold the treble scepter over England, Scotland, and Ireland (I.i.67-68; IV.i.101-124). The veracity of the witches’ other prophecies is a hope to Banquo and a gall to Macbeth, and the escape of Fleance, death of Macbeth, and weakness of Malcolm make possible the fruition of the oracle (III.i.1-10, 48-82; III.iii.18-22; V.viii.27-34). The failure of Malcolm’s rule is a foregone conclusion; the forces of history will resolve the time and the means.
In his first speech to his new subjects, Malcolm promises gifts for all his supporters and the creation of a new office, the earlship, to symbolize the reforms that he will institute in Scotland (V.viii.60-75). Yet, as Macbeth himself admits, “To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus” is the most pressing concern for a monarch (III.i.48). Malcolm’s ascension to the throne provides an upbeat ending to the play, but this resolution is undermined by the doubts already forming around Malcolm. The witches have foretold that his line will fail, and his brother, Donalbain, may already be plotting a revolt of his own. Scotland will need a strong leader to fend off these assaults, and Malcolm appears to lack these traits. He runs in the face of danger, doubts the loyalty of his followers, and lacks the wisdom and strategic genius a strong leader needs. Shakespeare wishes Malcolm well, but he knows the young king will not succeed. Malcolm is not the savior of Scotland; he is a bridge between Duncan and Banquo’s descendants, who will eventually take the crown and conquer all the British Isles.
1. Tell us about a person who has affected your life in a significant way.
Paul Lunsford, a youth minister who leads a youth bible study every Monday night, has inspired me to become a better person from the moment I met him. Paul’s insights are timely, incisive, and brilliant, and his humility, compassion, and respect for other people and religions are inspirational. The summer before I began high school, Paul encouraged me to take a more active approach to my faith and my life by spending more time in personal prayer, attending church retreats, and taking my faith into the world. The Holy Spirit did the rest. I have stuck with my faith through all the peaks and valleys life has offered, and I will do so for the rest of my life.
Through his actions, Paul has inspired me to balance my life. Though he is a very successful businessman, his work is not the most important part of his life. First and foremost, he is dedicated to his relationship with God; after that, his love is his family. I am friends with his three sons and have observed him to be a strong and loving father and a devoted husband. When I have a family of my own, I hope to emulate my father and Paul. For now, my goal is to keep God the center of my life while remaining a true friend and a dependable student. Paul is a role model for me.
2. If you were given a year to spend in any way you wish, what would you do?
This is a surprisingly appropriate question, since I love to ask people what they would do if they had a million dollars. Their answers – travel, pay for school, donate to charities, and so on – provide me an interesting view into their goals and their souls. I was always inclined to spend my life exactly the way I did when I was one million dollars poorer. Nevertheless, the freedom of a year without any obligations would provide opportunities I simply could not pass up.
First of all, I would give two months to God by doing humanitarian work in the Dominican Republic, the birthplace of my grandmother. I spent a week in Tijuana, Mexico last summer on a Youthworks Mission Trip. I enjoyed helping others, but the residents of Tijuana changed my life much more than I changed theirs. I have considered giving a year to the Peace Corps after college graduation, and my experiences in Tijuana reinforced this desire. I would also become fluent in the Spanish language, a very important part of my heritage.
After recovering from my trip, I would spend the next few months pursuing self-improvement. I would learn how to play the guitar and learn how to speak Japanese. I would read some books and give a serious effort to writing. I would pray and run every day and spend some time really exploring my hometown and the people who live in it. Perhaps I would take a few classes! Education and improvement are very important to me.
After that, I would conclude the year with more travel. If they had the time, I would visit the Pope and some great business and political leaders and find out what makes them tick. I would see some of the great cities and the small cities of the world. I would learn about humanity and myself. I would spend the last week of my year sleeping, and then I would re-enter the world a year older and wiser. It would be a good year, indeed.
The kids who jump from high school to the NBA next year will be the same age as me. I’ve loved sports for so long that I being the same age as a professional athlete seems unreal. Says Dad, “Just wait until they retire.”
Prompt: Use inflationary language. Or as I put it, inflninonary language.
A man and a woman were sitting in a restaurant. One was a beautiful, young college-age girl; the other was an unkempt, middle-aged man. A waiter trundled up to the two and asked for their orders.
“Three. Three margaritas.” The waiter nodded and departed. The man flashed his dnine a twoderful smile. “Two five you and two five me.”
“But you didn’t order five, you ordered-“
“One, don’t fret. We’ll have enough.”
“Right. Sorry, I keep fivegetting – what was your major?”
“Oh. Well, that explains it.”
“Yes, it was unelevenable three work at my post. Mine is a tale of woe and regret. Matriculnining students loved me, teachers loved me, everyone, everyone but my boss. That shortsighted woman seemed beten but was never beleven; I’m proud that I stood up to her, but am ultimately bewildered by her.”
She leaned forward. “Come, come, Antwo. Tell me your story.”
He sighed and leaned back in his chair. He’d never known his ex-wife had a sister, but he was glad she did; it was like she’d dropped out of the sky just three love him. He didn’t mind that. He wouldn’t mind spending the rest of the night with her, or the rest of his life.
“All right, all right. I was an English professor at William & Mary’s at the time. Two day I was chatting with an economist when I had a grand new idea – inflninetion of words! All things become less valuable over time; so it would be the same with language! Every word with a number sound would add two, er, one – it doesn’t make any difference anymore – to its total. Inflate, inflnine. He loved it, three.”
“Thank you! And say, you can eat. I’m not stopping you. You haven’t even touched your glass of water yet.”
There was an awkward silence.
“Anyway, few him and I set about to make our dream a reality. Unlike other economic ventures, this was easy; three affived it was no problem. We simply used it in all our classes. The economists loved it; they named me ‘The Inflninetion.’ The Dean was less happy; her anger, her hnine, was beyond all words. She called me a fivenicninor of the English Language. She threw me out of school. I don’t hate her, as her ineleventions were good; it was simply the fnine that was ineleventioned for me. Fivegiving and fivegetting are easy for me. Now I just need sometwo three apprecinine me in my old age.” He looked up, expecting to see her enraptured face.
The seat was empty.
The waiter returned. He tipped his jug to refill the old man’s cup, only to find it was still full. “I knew it! So much food you don’t know what to do with it. Sorry your date never showed up, man, but if you don’t feel like eating a dinner for two, I’d be more than happy to help you out.”
The great genius looked at the waiter. He looked at the untouched food at the other side of the table and the three virgin margaritas next to a honey-scented candle. After some time, he spoke again.
“Actually, I’d really appreciate it if you could inflate those three margaritas into seven right about now.”
“Your wish is my command, old-timer. Your wish is my command.”
A lot of people say that they can’t believe how quickly high school has gone by. Well, here’s what I think: I’ve been in high school for a long, long time. Going through high school is like running…five miles…in a swimming pool. I’m enjoying the run, though. I’ve fallen on my face and pulled myself back up a thousand times, and I really can’t imagine being anywhere else. I am a completely different person than I was when I started, and somehow I still have eight months left. They will be used well in the pursuit of learning. I’m glad that I’ve made it to October without hating school or staying up past 11 PM on a school night, and I’m going to stick with it.
This college essay I’m working on is pretty awesome so far, but I should get over this compulsion to check baseball scores every five minutes when the games haven’t even started yet.