Work and play

It’s the anniverary of the day in 1945 when the first atom bomb was successfully detonated. Enrico Fermi took bets on whether it would blow up the entire planet, or just New Mexico. Guess he lost.

On a brighter note, I love the Almanac‘s poem today by Edward Hirsch. He’s remembering being 16, learning to work and play and enjoy life… “each night was a Walt Whitman of holidays, the clarity of a whistle at 5 P.M., the freedom of walking out into the open air.” Almost makes a drudge summer job like hoisting garbage (or peddling overpriced baked goods to rude pushy people, Older Daughter?) appealing, for the contrast.


If work is whatever you have to do, and play is what you do because you enjoy doing it, it’s shocking how many of us end up in work we don’t enjoy and never expected to. Seems like that first summer job would wake everyone to the urgency of finding meaningful work. Why don’t we teach courses in that?

I do, sorta. Take your time here if you can afford to, I tell students, it’s so important to find work you want to do. Your happiness really depends on it, unless you’re Sisyphus and can content yourself with whatever rock you’re assigned.

These days, by the time freshmen enter my classroom they’ve already been advised to hurry up and leave, already. Get out “in four,” get a job, get our graduation rate up, get us off the hook. Good luck.

I’m so glad I took an extra year, as an undergrad, to find my vocation. Tuition back then was so much lower, like everything else, but how do you put a price on “the freedom of walking out into the open air”? As Henry said, the cost of things is best measured in the exchange rate of “what I call life.”

It’s only mid-July and here I am, already thinking about how much fun it will be subverting the advising system at work in the Fall (well, in August). Mustn’t rush the summer.

6:15/5:44, 70/92

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